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'Tonight Show' received big state rebate for Super Bowl broadcast

Updated: July 12, 2019 06:34 PM

The "Snowbate" program, which is overseen by the Minnesota Film and TV Board, has long been a political football at the State Capitol. The latest example is a big rebate given to "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" for a broadcast after the biggest football game of them all last year — Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis.

According to documents obtained by Minnesota Public Radio, the NBC late night show received a rebate check of $267,000 from the taxpayer-funded Minnesota Film and TV Board. The payment drew the ire of several Republican lawmakers, including Rep. Nolan West of Blaine.

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"This is a textbook definition of government waste," West said in a news release. "NBC would have capitalized on (the Super Bowl) by airing The Tonight Show from here regardless if a rebate program existed. Like them or not, these funds are supposed to be used to bring productions to Minnesota that normally wouldn't have considered our state as a filming location."

But the Film and TV Board's executive director defended the rebate, noting that NBC spent $3 million on the production here and hired 150 local workers.

"I consider it a win when a large production comes to Minnesota and spends that kind of money," Melodie Bahan told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS on Friday. "That's money that went directly into the Minnesota economy."

Bahan said $60,000 of the money NBC spent went directly to the state in the form of payroll taxes paid by the local workers.

Democratic political analyst Mike Erlandson said the state has long subsidized a wide array of businesses.

"This is a good debate to be had at the legislature about how much public funds should go into enticing businesses to come here, whether "The Tonight Show," or frankly, building the U.S. Bank Stadium that hosted the Super Bowl," Erlandson said during a segment of "At Issue" that will be broadcast Sunday morning at 10 a.m.

But Republican political analyst Andy Brehm disagreed.

"We just had a legislative session where Democrats said we need more revenue and this kind of wasteful spending is going on. I mean, of course we didn't have to subsidize them to have that show here," Brehm said on "At Issue." "NBC had the rights to the Super Bowl."

Bahan said the Minnesota Film and TV Board is working on revamping guidelines for rebates, which will total $500,000 in each of the next two years. She said she welcomes more legislative oversight.

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Tom Hauser

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