With television audiences already being battered by a rising tide of grueling awards shows, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences wants to create yet another one: the Latin Emmys.
The proposal has sparked resistance from the rival Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and has divided leaders of the Latino community. It’s a touchy subject, carrying with it racial overtones and shining a spotlight on the industry’s slow progress in hiring Hispanics, its reluctance to add Hispanic-oriented programming and its failure in general to recognize the importance of the huge Latino market. But the time has come for an Emmy Awards show that recognizes Spanish-language television.
Spanish programming is the fastest-growing segment of the television business. That it doesn’t already have its own Emmys is a reminder of television’s traditional discomfort with anything outside the mainstream-not unlike the industry’s slow recognition of cable during the past couple of decades.
Like cable, Spanish-language TV is a force to be reckoned with, and including it in the Emmy process is an important step in that reckoning. Honoring it is an unavoidably delicate matter, and any Latin Emmys must be handled with sensitivity. That NATAS is willing to take on the challenge is encouraging, and the group should be supported in its effort.
Opponents of a separate Latin Emmys ceremony argue that Spanish-language programming should be included in the prestigious Primetime Emmys, either by adding categories or by letting it compete on an equal basis with English-language programming for the top awards.
The latter proposal is clearly unrealistic. The language barrier alone is sufficient to prevent voters from judging Spanish-language programming on equal footing with English-language television. And adding new Primetime Emmy categories fails to recognize the natural division in the audience for English and Spanish shows.
Never mind that it’s simply unwieldy to add a big block of categories to the Primetime Emmys. That was one reason creating a separate ceremony for the Daytime Emmys made sense. And the audience for Spanish-language programming is far more distinct than the division between daytime and prime-time viewers.
Some Latino leaders have indicated they don’t like the name Latin Emmys, but say they would support Emmys en Espanol. Emmys en Espanol, they point out, would make it clear the awards are for Spanish-language programming and are not intended to pull Hispanic-surnamed performers such as George Lopez or Hispanic-oriented shows such as “Greetings From Tucson” out of mainstream competition.
It’s a sound argument, and one that deserves serious consideration. But whether they’re called Latin Emmys or Emmys en Espanol, and whether they’re run by NATAS or ATAS, the awards are overdue and should be embraced by the industry.#