Did you know that North Carolina gives away your tax money to Hollywood? Now, some appointees of the Cooper Administration want to take things a step further by allowing the grants to subsidize productions that include sexual content that is considered “harmful to minors.”
Many people – especially those not from the Eastern part of the state – may be surprised to find out that North Carolina has long provided tax incentives or grants to TV and movie productions that film in the state.
Hollywood handouts are problematic – and Civitas has been an outspoken critic of the practice.
Film grants are problematic for several reasons. First, they divert funding from core government services such as public safety or education.
Additionally, film grants force North Carolina taxpayers to subsidize businesses that may actively work against their ideological, moral, or policy interests.
In 2014, an amendment to the state budget stipulated that film and TV productions were ineligible for taxpayer-funded grants if they contain “material that is harmful to minors.” Some in the Cooper administration want to see that provision removed.
The Governor’s Advisory Council on Film, Television and Digital Streaming met on September 15 to discuss policy recommendations related to attracting film and TV productions to North Carolina. The council was appointed by Gov. Cooper and is chaired by Secretary of Natural and Cultural Resources Susi Hamilton (view full council biographies here). The report is due to the Governor by the end of the year.
The council met via webinar and the full meeting can be viewed here. Their discussion of the “harmful to minors” provision begins 29 minutes into the video.
Hamilton notes that removing the provision is included in their list of policy objectives, saying that “you can’t really define it, so it needs to come out.” One example given by a member of the Council that would likely not be allowed under the provision included a plot line of a minor student having a physical relationship with a teacher.
Here is the full text of the definition of “harmful to minors” as defined in NC General Statute 14-190.13:
(1) Harmful to Minors. – That quality of any material or performance that depicts sexually explicit nudity or sexual activity and that, taken as a whole, has the following characteristics:
- The average adult person applying contemporary community standards would find that the material or performance has a predominant tendency to appeal to a prurient interest of minors in sex; and
- The average adult person applying contemporary community standards would find that the depiction of sexually explicit nudity or sexual activity in the material or performance is patently offensive to prevailing standards in the adult community concerning what is suitable for minors; and
- The material or performance lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.
In this case, vague may be in the eye of the beholder. Despite the clarity of the law in this regard, the intent of the provision is clear: North Carolina taxpayers should not have to hand over their hard-earned money to Hollywood productions of inappropriate content.
Note that the “harmful to minors” provision doesn’t mean that productions in the state are banned from filming here; it simply makes them ineligible to receive taxpayer money for doing so.
As if taxpayers being forced to subsidize Hollywood isn’t bad enough, some in the Cooper administration now want taxpayers to also subsidize film and TV shows that are knowingly producing content that many would deem inappropriate for minors.
The council’s report will be published in the coming months, but it would take an act of the state legislature to repeal the “harmful to minors” provision to the grant program. The legislature would serve the people of North Carolina better by just repealing the entire grant program.