Garcetti tries to keep L.A. in the late-night talk show game

Garcetti tries to keep L.A. in the late-night talk show game
In this photo provided by CBS, David Letterman, host of "The Late Show with David Letterman," waves to the audience in New York on Thursday after announcing that he will retire sometime in 2015. (CBS)

Whether Mayor Eric Garcetti’s open letter urging CBS to move “The Late Show” to Los Angeles was a political stunt or a savvy business move — or both — he’s clearly making runaway production a key issue, even if he can’t stop it himself.

Just hours after longtime “Late Show” host David Letterman announced plans to retire in 2015, Garcetti released a note he sent to CBS chief Les Moonves encouraging him to move the next version of the show to Los Angeles. He wrote:

"I have made the entertainment industry a key priority for my administration. It's a critical component to our city's economy and identity. I created the Mayor's Office of Motion Picture and Television Production, and under the leadership of Ken Ziffren, we are aggressively seeking to encourage more production here in Los Angeles by cutting red tape, lending proactive assistance, and by furthering public policy to compete with the financial incentives offered by other states."

Notice that Garcetti didn't say, "And we can offer you a sweet deal to relocate here." Because he — or California — cannot. The state's film tax credit program does not provide incentives for talk shows. At the moment, the Legislature is considering Assembly Bill 1839, which would expand California's program to make it more competitive with other states, but there's no proposal to include talk shows.


That’s interesting because one of the most high-profile runaway productions recently was NBC’s “The Tonight Show,” which this year left its longtime home in Burbank and moved to New York when Jimmy Fallon took over as host. There were probably many non-financial reasons for the program ditching L.A. But it didn’t hurt that as NBC was pondering its move, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweaked the state’s tax credit program to allow a generous 30% tax credit for talk or variety television programs filmed in front of 200 people that relocate to the state. The incentive worked out to a $20-million tax cut for NBC.


Now, California shouldn't necessarily go chasing after all productions. (In New York, it's not clear that tax break was even needed; "Tonight Show" producers said they never intended to stay in L.A.). California has generally been smarter about targeting its tax credits to avoid being pulled deeper into the tax credit arms race, in which production companies play states against one another.

But the fact is there is an arms race and California is losing jobs and investment to runaway production. Garcetti is trying to reverse the trend using the tools he has. Unfortunately, a nice note from the mayor to a network executive may not be enough anymore to lure the big-money productions back.

Must-read headlines from L.A. to CA:

Yee campaign committees paid for Manila travel, Sacramento Bee

State Sen. Leland Yee spent campaign donations in recent years to travel to the Philippines, the country from which federal authorities accuse him of arranging to smuggle hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of military-style weapons.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck says he's interested in a second term, Los Angeles Times

Beck's first term has been marked by reductions in crime, but he faces scrutiny over his recent decision not to fire a troubled officer.

Mural citations are off-the-wall politics, KCET

The first set of challenges to the mural ordinance showed two things: that there are still ways to make the difference between art and advertising a very thin line, and that property owners are still accountable for how their walls are being used. They can be fined if works on walls are considered illegal signs, or lack proper paperwork as art, even if the mural is pitched to them as a legitimate project with paperwork in order. The owner of the Arts District property that includes the wall with a new Ron English mural, "Urban Big Foot," sponsored by Juxtapoz Magazine and Converse and administered by LA Freewalls, was cited by the Department of Building and Safety on March 4.

The real reason mass-transit fares are rising across the U.S., Atlantic Cities

Hardly a month goes by without a city transit agency announcing a fare increase. That’s the unequivocal conclusion from a quick Google search of large U.S. cities. Boston’s MBTA proposed an increase just last week. The D.C. Metro presented a plan for one in February, at the same time San Francisco’s Muni riders prepared for one. The Los Angeles MTA chimed in with a recommended hike the month before that. And on and on. The reason local agencies seem to need so many fare increases is that they do a poor job keeping the price of taking a ride near the cost of providing it.


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