Taxpayer-Funded Bluff City Law Might Get Cancelled


Bluff City Law, which films on location in Memphis in exchange for taxpayer money, isn’t getting the ratings it hoped for, and the show will stop filming for a time because of it.

Mark Cunningham, spokesman for the Nashville-based Beacon Center of Tennessee, told The Tennessee Star Monday the news did not surprise him.

Beacon is a free-market think tank.

“We hate to say we told you so but… we told you so. Taxpayers should be enraged that millions of tax dollars went to this failing show. This is just more evidence that the state of Tennessee needs to get rid of film incentives altogether,” Cunningham said in an emailed statement.

“If yet another failed show plus the government’s own acknowledgment that film incentives have a terrible return on investment don’t make you realize we need to stop funding Hollywood shows and movies with tax dollars, I have some beachfront property in Arizona to sell you.”

Bluff City Law is not officially cancelled as of yet, according to the Memphis-based FOX 13. The show reportedly averages a 0.9 rating in adults 18-49 and 6.3 million viewers.

Memphis Tourism’s Vice President of Public Relations, Kevin Kern, reportedly told the station taxpayers are getting a positive return on investment.

Memphis spokesman Dan Springer, meanwhile, reportedly told the station there is no loss.

“The City/County contribution via EDGE is per episode, so NBCUniversal only receives tax abatement dollars prorated for the number of episodes aired-10. If they come back and do more, the new tax abatement value will again be per new episode,” Springer reportedly said.

As The Star reported earlier this month state officials provided $2.5 million in incentives to Bluff City Law.

Memphis officials, through the Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis and Shelby County, sought $1.4 million for the show’s first year of filming, according to that organization’s website.

NBCUniversal has ordered nine episodes for the first season, in addition to the pilot.

EDGE proposed a four-year PILOT tax abatement for six Comcast property tax bills – one state-assessed utility property and five Memphis and Shelby County personal property bills. Comcast will pass the savings to NBCUniversal, the EDGE website said.

In JuneThe Star quoted Beacon Policy Coordinator Ron Shultis as saying past film incentives proved a terrible value for Tennessee taxpayers.

“State film incentives became popular in the mid and late 2000s. By 2009, 44 states offered some kind of film incentive. What those in the industry won’t tell you is that since then, thirteen states have completely eliminated their programs and several more have reduced theirs because these programs have been shown to be a bad value for taxpayers,” he said at the time.

“In fact, a recent study by Tennessee’s Dept. of Economic and Community Development (ECD) found that the $69.1 million given over the life of Tennessee’s program has resulted in $14.7 million in state tax collections, or a 21-cent return on the dollar. This estimate is on the higher side compared to most states, with some official state studies stating as little as seven cents on the dollar.”

– – –

Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]






Related posts

2 Thoughts to “Taxpayer-Funded Bluff City Law Might Get Cancelled”

  1. 83ragtop50

    Heck, the government should get out of the welfare business – business and private – period.

    The government trough runs deep and wide as my tax dollars flow from my hard work.

  2. Lee

    Color it GONE ! More waste… Where is the leadership that looks to helping the real people and when will they stop catering to the elite few?