BP pays for show touting Miss. coast 'resilience'

JACKSON — Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour’s office said Friday that former “Baywatch” star David Hasselhoff will host a one-hour television special later this month to promote the state and oil company BP is footing the bill.

Crews will be in Biloxi next week to film performances by Hasselhoff, country singer Ricky Skaggs, country duo Montgomery Gentry and other musicians and actors for a program set to air Aug. 27 on the CW, a network that features shows such as “Gossip Girl” and “The Vampire Diaries.”

A news release from Barbour’s office said the program will focus on the “resilience and spirit” of the Gulf Coast and will feature “celebrity testimonials, music acts, and interviews with coastal residents.”

Barbour spokesman Dan Turner told The Associated Press that BP is paying for the program.

BP spokeswoman Lisa Houghton confirmed in a separate interview Friday that the show’s expenses are being paid from one of the grants the company gave Mississippi after a BP well ruptured in the Gulf of Mexico.

The company gave the state $15 million for tourism promotion and $75 million for restoration projects.

“This is all about helping promote tourism, especially along the coast,” Houghton said of the television show.

Months ago, Barbour gave the state’s economic agency, the Mississippi Development Authority, control over how to spend the $15 million. Sandy Bynum, spokeswoman for the MDA tourism division, said Friday that about $8.2 million of the money has already been spent, mostly for television and radio commercials airing across the South. The spots promote Mississippi’s beaches, golf courses and other attractions.

Bynum said the governor’s office, not MDA, has been handling plans for the show hosted by Hasselhoff. The MDA director is appointed by the governor.

Coast business leaders complained several weeks ago about the governor’s office and MDA controlling the tourism promotion money from BP. Since then, MDA has been working with groups in the three coastal counties to decide how and where to spend the money.

Oil spill benefit concerts have been held in Alabama and Louisiana, but the Mississippi TV show is not being promoted as a fundraiser. The governor’s office said tickets have been sent to coast cities and counties and will be given away at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Coliseum box office starting Monday.

The other entertainers set to appear in the promotional TV show are former American Idol contestants Ace Young and Bo Bice; country singer Terri Clark; country group Lone Star; and brothers Kyle Massey and Chris Massey, actors who have appeared on “That’s So Raven” and other shows for young viewers.

Turner said it’s yet to be decided whether Barbour or his wife, Marsha, will appear on the promotional show.

Barbour has not ruled out the possibility of running for president in 2012. As head of the Republican Governors Association, he has been traveling the country this summer to help GOP candidates.

Emily Wagster Pettus/The Associated Press