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GAO Analyzes Smithsonian/Showtime Deal

As a follow-up to our previous story on the media deal between the Showtime Channel and the Smithsonian Institution, FGI would like to draw the attention of our readers to this General Accountability Office report on the deal:

Smithsonian Institution: Additional Information Should Be Developed and Provided to Filmmakers on the Impact of the Showtime Contract, GAO-07-275, December 15, 2006

They conclude in part:

It is too early to determine the long-term impact of the contract. Access to the Smithsonian’s collections and staff for research purposes remains unchanged, but the direct impact on filmmakers will depend largely on how many request permission to use a substantial amount of Smithsonian content. So far, 6 of 117 filming requests have involved a substantial amount of Smithsonian content–2 were denied and 4 were approved as exceptions. The Smithsonian contends that it will be able to accommodate the same level of filming activity as it has in the past based on its historical analysis of filming contracts. GAO found that this analysis was unreliable because it was based on incomplete data and oversimplified criteria. In addition, concerns have been raised about damage to the Smithsonian’s image and the appropriateness of limiting the use of the collections held in trust for the American public.

Hmm, what is appropriate about the limiting the use of the collections held in trust for the American public? I can’t really think of anything. Can you?

The report suggests that the Smithsonian might see as much as $150 million from this deal after 10 years. While this may seem like a lot, this amount could only fund about 13 hours of our current occupation in Iraq. This is estimated from the Iraq Study Group’s estimate of $8/billion per month.

Couldn’t we spare a day’s worth of Iraq funding this year to make deals that limit national collections unnecessary?

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