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TV academies mull Latin Emmys

Nov 18, 2002  •  Post A Comment

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is exploring the creation of a Latin Emmy Awards ceremony to recognize Spanish-language news, sports and entertainment programming.
NATAS President Peter Price said he would like to see a Latin Emmys ceremony introduced by next fall. He envisions such a telecast alternating on the leading Spanish-language networks, Univision and NBC-owned Telemundo, year to year. The board of New York-based NATAS voted in support of Mr. Price’s proposal in June. That vote was unanimous, Mr. Price said.
NATAS pitched the idea of a new ceremony to the West Coast-based Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which puts on the Primetime Emmy Awards, in early September.
“This is an area of great importance to the Academy and it also is an incredibly complex area,” said ATAS President Todd Leavitt.
“We are reaching out at present to as many of the constituent areas in the Latino programming community as possible to see if we can appropriately work with them.”
Mr. Price said he is waiting for “endorsement” from ATAS before making more specific overtures to the Hispanic community. NATAS, which stages the Daytime Emmys and News and Sports Emmys, would need ATAS support since part of the new event would be wading into ATAS’s entertainment territory.
However, last week Mr. Pricewas in Washington, where he met with Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Texas, who heads the Arts & Entertainment Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, and Helen Hernandez, founder of the Imagen Foundation, which for 17 years has promoted positive portrayals of Latinos and Latino cultures in the entertainment industry.
“We are just pleased to be exploring these possibilities with both academies,” Ms. Hernandez said.
A spokeswoman for Rep. Ortiz said the congressman was pleased that Mr. Price had met with some of the 17 members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and was inclined to think including the Hispanic community in the creation of a Latin Emmycast is “the best way to do it.”
Rep. Ortiz is looking forward to “monitoring” the relationship between NATAS and Imagen, the congressman said in a letter sent to Mr. Price after the meeting.
With Hollywood under increasing pressure to raise and balance the profile of Hispanics and other ethnic groups, the question of how to honor Spanish-language programming and those who appear in or produce it is a delicate one.
Mr. Price, who was named NATAS president in February and who quickly set out to visit each of its 18 chapters (plus Texas, where a new chapter is taking root), puts the Latin Emmy initiative in the context of “our continuing commitment to diversity and inclusiveness.”
“The general reaction from people is that the time has come,” he said.
He argues that while Spanish-language programming is “becoming a greater and greater presence at the local level,” the language barrier dampens enthusiasm for participation in the national News Emmys competition. “It’s probably not surprising, since people enter a contest to win,” Mr. Price said.
The last time Spanish-language programming won a national Emmy was in 1998, when “Noticiero Univision” won two News Emmys.
Others argue that since Hispanics are the fastest-growing ethnic group in the country, offering them a splinter Emmy is not the way to acknowledge their role in popular culture. The critical and ratings drubbing the third annual Latin Grammys on CBS suffered in September illustrated just how difficult it can be to achieve crossover appeal.
Then there are the inevitable questions about whether a Latin-only Emmy would have the same stature as Emmys handed out as the result of broader peer-group votes and competition.
“It’s a very complicated issue,” said one ATAS member, echoing the thoughts of a number of members of both chapters who believe that there should not be a rush to establish a new paradigm.