Monday, March 19, 2012

Did BC taxpayers finance American TV ?

American cable TV producers moved taping of three of 18 episodes of Bravo's Top Chef: Texas to British Columbia. That may seem unlikely because of the high costs of transporting and housing contestants, judges and an entire U.S. production crew to achieve a 4,000 km location shift.

However, you can be certain that BC taxpayers paid for the move although, based on history, we are unlikely to learn the financial details anytime soon, if at all.

Top Chef, a champion of arranging "product placement" payments, works hard to keep these details quiet. Andy Dehnart of Reality Blurred detailed the situation in Texas in his article Top Chef producers sue Texas to prevent release of details:
"Magical Elves, the creators and producers of Top Chef, have sued the Texas attorney general to prevent the release of information in documents from the Governor Rick Perry’s office related to the $400,000 Texas paid for product placement in the new season.

"Today, The Dallas Observer reports on the progress of its requests for documents detailing what the money will be used for, and describes what happened:
“…the governor’s office asked the Attorney General’s Office to first decide whether the records should be released. (Certain proprietary information is exempted from the state’s public record laws.) Despite pleas from Magical Elves, on September 21 the Attorney General’s Office ruled that, yes, whatever the governor’s office dug up belongs to the people. Perry’s office ‘may not withhold any of the submitted information.’
[Now,]…Magical Elves has sued the attorney general, hoping to stop the governor’s office from turning over some amount of information regarding its arrangement with Perry’s office.”
"The lawsuit, filed Monday, says that, as part of its brand integration with Texas, “Magical Elves provided confiential and propreitary information regardng Top Chef, as well as creative concepts and production ideas for Top Chef: Texas,” and the documents they want to protect include “proposals, correspondence, and related documents.” The governor’s office did release a few documents, which mostly consist of requests from journalists about the money; there are more details in the Observer’s story.

"The lawsuit also says that producers want “to protect confidential, proprietary information.” Well, then, use your own money and not the public’s, or at least don’t ask the government to sponsor your show..."
Without knowing what BC taxpayers paid to bring Top Chef to Vancouver and Whistler, we cannot evaluate whether or not we got value for money. We also don't know if Emad Yacoub and condo-king Nat Bosa paid separately to have two Glowbal restaurants featured and described as being "two of Vancouver’s hottest restaurants." Perhaps that exaggeration was a benefit for generous contributions to the BC Liberal Party.

No doubt, the BC people writing cheques to Top Chef hoped for great PR for local destinations but I'm not sure they achieved the hoped for result. This is taken from one of the foodie blogs that pays attention to this particular cooking show:
"Crazy BRAVO, I guess, was tired of hot-weather Texas and decided to see if the Top Chefs (Paul, Bev, Sarah, and Lindsay) could survive in the frozen tundra of British Columbia. They might as well have been in Siberia... "
Ouch!

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