The Duck Dynasty producers, as well as the Robertson family members who star in the show, soak up hundreds of thousands of dollars in government handouts from the state of Louisiana every year.
One industry insider estimates that the Duck Dynasty cast, which is paid $200,000 per week to appear on the popular reality show, receives government benefits of $70,000 for every episode of the A&E cable show from the state, even though Louisiana recently slashed funding for health care programs and pension programs for public employees such as police, teachers, and firefighters.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal recently presented Robertson family patriarch Phil Robertson, who founded the family’s Duck Commander duck-call business in 1973, Louisiana’s first Governor’s Award For Entrepreneurial Excellence.
Jindal, who is believed to harbor presidential ambitions, scored a high-profile guest appearance on last week’s Season Six premiere of Duck Dynasty — at the same time that the state was paying the subsidies to the Duck Dynasty production.
The handouts are part of Louisiana’s incentive program for film and TV productions, a program which began in earnest in 2002 and which has earned the state the nickname “Hollywood South.” Dozens of film and TV projects shoot there, to collect the generous taxpayer-backed subsidies, which cover about 30 percent of a film or TV show’s production costs in Louisiana.
While advocates of film subsidy programs say that they lure big-time production to states that offer the money — 43 states now offer some version of a film subsidy program — economists have said that the programs cost states millions and produce very little economic benefit in return.
Louisiana recently did a study that found only 15 cents of economic benefit for every dollar spent by state taxpayers are used to prop up Hollywood productions, including reality shows such as Duck Dynasty.
The nonprofit Center on Budget and Policy Priorities published a report on film subsidy programs, which found that the subsidies are big money-losers for states, and result in budget cuts to needed programs, to compensate for money poured into the pockets of productions such as Duck Dynasty.
Those budget cuts further stifle state economic growth.
“The revenue generated by economic activity induced by film subsidies falls far short of the subsidies’ direct costs to the state,” said the CBPP in the report. “To balance its budget, the state must therefore cut spending or raise revenues elsewhere, dampening the subsidies’ positive economic impact.”
The CBPP also said that many such subsidies are given to productions that would likely film in the state anyway, even without any taxpayer handouts. That criticism clearly applies to Duck Dynasty, which can shoot nowhere but Louisiana, because that’s where the Robertson family calls home.
The welfare payments that go to Duck Dynasty, then, do nothing to keep the show in Louisiana. Though with declining ratings for Duck Dynasty recently, the handouts may help prevent the show from being cancelled.