Smithsonian Institution: Additional Information Should Be Developed and Provided to Filmmakers on the Impact of the Showtime Contract
In March 2006, the Smithsonian Institution (Smithsonian) announced that it had entered into a 30-year contract with Showtime Networks Inc., (Showtime) to create a digital on-demand television channel. Members of Congress and other interested parties, particularly filmmakers, raised issues about the contract's potential effects on public access to and use of the Smithsonian's collections, its confidential nature, and the process by which the Smithsonian negotiated it. This report discusses (1) the extent to which the Smithsonian followed its internal contracting guidelines, (2) what the Smithsonian gave up and received in return under the contract, (3) the Smithsonian's implementation of the contract, and (4) the contract's potential impact on outside parties. GAO reviewed the contract and pertinent documents, and interviewed Smithsonian and Showtime officials.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Smithsonian Institution||To improve the implementation of the contract and increase the information available to interested parties, the Secretary of the Smithsonian should fully document decisions for filming applications that are denied because they involve more than incidental use or are approved as one-offs to establish a record of precedents, which will define over time what constitutes incidental use and help to ensure consistent decision making by the review committee.||
According to documentation provided by the Smithsonian Institution (Smithsonian), the Smithsonian has updated its filming application tracking spreadsheet to include an explanation in cases where a filming application is denied. There have been no additional filming application denials as a result of the contract terms since GAO issued this report. In addition, the tracking spreadsheet denotes the filming applications that were approved as one-offs and includes information about the amount of Smithsonian content to be included in the program. A total of eight one-offs have been approved for fiscal years 2007-2010.
|Smithsonian Institution||To improve the implementation of the contract and increase the information available to interested parties, the Secretary of the Smithsonian should update the "Frequently Asked Questions about Filming at the Smithsonian Institution" on the Smithsonian's Web site to better describe what the contract means for filmmakers, especially as it relates to incidental use of Smithsonian content.||
According to documentation provided by the Smithsonian Institution (Smithsonian), it updated the "Frequently Asked Questions about Filming at the Smithsonian Institution" on its Web site in August 2007. The document updates that better describe what the contract means for filmmakers include a more detailed description of the factors the Smithsonian considers related to incidental use of Smithsonian content and the impact of the contract on filming application approvals.