Editorial: Emmys win if TV academies come together

Jul 16, 2001  •  Post A Comment

The television academy has long had a history of controversy, from its earliest days, when the Emmy categories changed almost yearly, through the rancor of the mid-’70s that resulted in the organization being divided into East Coast and West Coast factions, and right up to today, when political infighting has reached such a crescendo it has come to the attention of the popular press.
As it stands, the West Coasters, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, administer the prime-time Emmy Awards as well as the local Los Angeles Emmys. The East Coast group, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, is responsible for the daytime, news, sports and international Emmys and for the 18 local NATAS chapters around the country.
Each faction has its own culture and its own peculiar internal squabbles. Each practices its own method of voting and each has been roundly criticized for different reasons.
Now with the recent death of John Cannon-who headed the East Coast unit since its inception, all along resisting the idea of reunification-there is talk of finally putting the two academies back together.
Such a move would make sense for many reasons, among them the advantages that would come with common negotiation of network broadcast deals for the prime-time and daytime Emmys and the obvious cost savings that would result from streamlining the combined operations.
Perhaps most important, reunification would strengthen and homogenize the academies’ primary function-honoring outstanding achievement in the field of television with a unique symbol of excellence that is recognized throughout the world. But the Emmy Award can’t mean the same thing to all its recipients if voting procedures differ from faction to faction and a singular vision of what constitutes excellence isn’t shared by all academy members.
To the industry as a whole-especially to its younger members-there are two TV academies for arcane reasons that no longer seem valid. It could be that it’s high time to rescind a decision that was made when “Happy Days” was the top show and cable television meant little more than better reception via a community antenna.
Reunifying an organization with such a legacy of internal contentiousness may very well be an insurmountable undertaking. But whatever the likelihood of bringing the two sides back together, it is clear that simply foisting the ways of one academy upon the other would not be the viable route to a solution.
At the very least, a concerted effort at cooperation and commonality between the two factions is in order. After all, in Hollywood-and in New York-the winner could only be Emmy herself.