Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Phil Bryant, Miss America, and $10,000

Geoff Pender at the Sun-Herald wrote an article last Friday that revealed Republican gubernatorial candidate Phil Bryant's plan to use BP money to move the Miss America pageant from Las Vegas to the Mississippi Gulf Coast.  In order to help restore tourism, BP pledged $16M to the Mississippi Gulf Coast after they spewed oil all over it.  Under Bryant's plan, a majority of that money would go towards moving the pageant from Vegas to the Coast.

From the article:
Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant, a gubernatorial candidate, wants local tourism leaders to spend the bulk of the advertising and marketing money BP is providing over three years to move the Miss America pageant from Las Vegas to the Mississippi Coast. 
But those leaders are concerned whether they could, or should, spend a majority of the $16 million from BP on the pageant, which has seen flagging viewership and popularity in recent years. Though the pageant moving here would be a boon for the Coast’s image, there’s concern it would not necessarily help bring enough tourists to be worth the expense. 
Bryant this week accompanied Mississippi native Sam Haskell to a meeting to pitch the newly formed Mississippi Gulf Coast Regional Tourism Partnership on the pageant. The three-county partnership is in charge of BP’s tourism and marketing grant to the Coast. 
Haskell, former chief of worldwide television for the William Morris Agency, is the current chairman of the Miss America Organization.
Then things get interesting. According to the article:
Bryant through a spokesman declined comment on the issue, and apparently had wanted the pitch to be a secret, according to local leaders.
I'm sure that Bryant wanted it kept secret for the same reasons other economic development projects are kept secret. But it kinda looks bad when you factor in the fact that Sam Haskell donated $10,000 to Bryant's campaign 3 weeks before the pitch was made (see page 4), and that the Miss America pageant ain't what it used to be. According to Pender's article:
In 2006, ABC declined to renew its contract with the pageant. 
Cable channel CMT picked it up for two years, then dropped it, with cable channel TLC signing a three-year deal in 2008. 
In 1988, the pageant had 33 million viewers. During its cable years, viewership had dropped to less than 4 million. 
The pageant has returned to ABC, and this year drew 6.6 million viewers, a 47 percent increase over last year on TLC.
As a comparison, 6.6 million viewers is 1 million less than last year's Alabama-South Carolina football game. Of course, there will be people who travel in to watch the pageant live, and I figure whatever venue hosts it will sell out.  But how is that markedly different than, say, the upcoming Keith Urban show at the Mississippi Coast Coliseum? (My guess is it won't even be held at a venue that large.  It will probably be held at the much smaller Beau Rivage Theater, meaning there will be even less tourist dollars spent.)

I'm not sure this is a wise way to spend nearly all of the BP tourism money.  And I can't help but wonder whether or not Sam Haskell pitched the idea of handing over the Coast's BP money to prop up his flagging franchise while he was handing over that $10,000 check.


BC said...

Pageants and NASCAR! That's the Phil Bryant economic development plan. It's the redneck bread and circuses.

Sam said...

Phil Bryant keeps missing the boat on the oil spill. First there's the ridiculous lawnmower comment. Now he wants to take BP money away from hard-working residents and business owners to help prop up the declining franchise of a large campaign contributor!

hilary said...

heavy sigh.

once again, mississippians may fall prey to some nut-job pol who comes up with yet another idea whose time is way past...

where are the leaders with vision? the gulf coast could be a valuable gem, one of many. but residents ought to be saying what they want, and they ought to be sharing in the potential for growth and development.

choggs said...

Phil Bryant and Sam Haskell hobbies are aquanet, cowboy boots, and supression.