Memphis Wants More Corporate Welfare for Film and TV Production

tv production crew


Officials in Memphis and Shelby County reportedly want more corporate welfare to produce on-location film and television shows.

This, according to the Memphis-based WMC Action News 5, which referenced the NBC series Bluff City Law and Hallmark’s Christmas at Graceland, both of which filmed in Memphis.

The station also reported Memphis has lost money and jobs due to state officials’ reluctance to provide additional incentives for on-location film and television productions.

“What we are asking for is realistic in a state that has no income tax. We can’t expect no cap on the fund but we do need $10-20 million. Preferably $20 million,” said Linn Sitler, a member of the Memphis & Shelby County Film and Television Commission, told the station.

Sitler reportedly said she likely won’t know how much money state officials are willing to give until April.

As The Tennessee Star reported in November, an attorney and native Tennessean has taken the NBC series Bluff City Law to task for not only taking taxpayer money from state residents but also for pushing a left-wing agenda.

Writing for The Federalist, Clark L. Hildabrand, who currently lives in Virginia, wrote that news of the legal-based drama filmed on location in Memphis initially excited him.

But he later wrote that the show “has perhaps forgotten that Republicans watch television, too.”

“Why the Republican-led Tennessee government decided to support such an ideologically charged and shoddy show is beyond me.  Tennessee is spending $2.5 million to subsidize the program. Memphis and Shelby County promised another $1.4 million, and Memphis Tourism threw $300,000 in on top of that. Normally in a capitalist economy, businesses bear the risks and rewards of their efforts. We pay taxes, such as the $400 professional privilege tax my wife pays each year to keep her Tennessee law license, for a legal system that allows fair competition,” Hildabrand wrote.

“Here, however, Tennessee taxpayers are shelling out money for a struggling television show that has no doubt already turned off moderates and conservatives. Bluff City Law recently canceled an order for an additional six episodes due to poor ratings. The show may have spent some money in Tennessee, but out-of-state actors, directors, and writers will pocket more.”

Also, last year, Ron Shultis of the Nashville-based Beacon Center of Tennessee, said past state film incentives proved a terrible value for Tennessee taxpayers.

Beacon is a free market think tank.

“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, 13 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,” Shultis said at the time.

“In fact, a recent study by Tennessee’s Dept. of Economic and Community Development 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.”

Even if Bluff City Law is successful and airs for many seasons there are no guarantees it will film on location in Memphis long-term, Shultis added, reminding readers of the now cancelled ABC series Nashville.

Nashville filmed on location in exchange for corporate welfare from state and Nashville officials.

“As we’ve seen repeatedly, networks will hold taxpayers hostage demanding more and more incentives for future seasons,” Shultis said.

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






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