New York taxpayers subsidize TV ads

We have complained several times about the tax money New York gives the film industry to subsidize movies and television shows shot or edited in this state. But if you agree with us that this is a waste of public funds, it gets worse. We subsidize commercials shot here as well.

Yes, part of your taxes go to help companies try to sell you stuff while you’re trying to watch something else on TV or the internet. We learned that from a report by WHEC news in Rochester.

“We all like a good commercial,” the WHEC reporter said, “but if a company is trying to sell us something, should we be the ones paying part of the tab for their snazzy pitch?”

No way. The state doesn’t subsidize the creation of ads for newspapers and magazines, so it shouldn’t do it for TV and internet video, either.

John Kaehny of Reinvent Albany noted on the TV report that movie-TV-commercial production companies “are major political contributors, and this is really pay to play and tax policy that’s based on campaign contributions.”

Worse yet.

“Since the program started in 2010, the state has shelled out $31 million in tax breaks for the production of 2,000 commercials.”

That’s not all that much money by statewide standards, but it could grow.

“Our concern with that is that it’s a foot in the door,” Kaehny said. “Just by way of perspective, the film and TV tax credit, when it was created in 2004, was for $25 million, and today that’s a tax credit that’s $420 million, so it’s grown almost 18 fold in that time period.”

Taxpayers across New York paid that $420 million, but New York City reaps roughly 90 percent of the economic benefits, according to a state-mandated study by Camoin Associates.

As we’ve said before, the U.S. has gone a long way from the days when private business paid for private things and taxes paid for public things. Businesses today rely on the socialized economy, and the film industry can pack up and jump at a juicy offer quicker than most. We’d like the U.S. to back away from this model, but that may have to be done incrementally. For now, therefore, we’d like to see New York’s film incentives reduced and made more fair geographically. For instance, since the film industry is so regionalized, maybe it would be more fair to run its subsidies through the Regional Economic Development Council system.

And can we please end subsidies for commercials outright? That’s as annoying as the worst TV ad ever.

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