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A day of panels and prizes in New York.

On November 24, members of the international TV community flocked to the New York Hilton for a full day of panels and speeches at the Worldwide Television Summit Conference, which was followed by the International Emmy Awards Gala that evening. Both events were sponsored by the International Council of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

The Emmys, which were hosted by Sir Peter Ustinov, also featured celebrity presenters such as Roddy McDowall, Cliff Robertson, Fran Drescher, Marilu Henner, Jennifer Grey and Armand Assante. The event's liveliest moment occurred during the presentation of the Children & Young People Emmy: comic and actor Richard Belzer appeared onstage flanked by the mammoth Bananas in Pajamas, remarking, "This is the high point of my career, I assure you."

It was a proud night for the U.K., as four of the six major Emmys went to British programs. The winners were: for Drama, Crossing The Floor by the U.K.'s Hat Trick for BBC 2; for Documentary, Gerrie and Louise by Canada's Blackstock Pictures and Eurasia Motion Pictures in association with the CBC; for Arts Documentary, Dancing for Dollars: The Bolshoi in Vegas, by the U.K.'s NVC Arts for Channel 4; for Performing Arts, Enter Achilles, by the U.K.'s DV8 Films for the BBC and RM Arts; for Popular Arts, Liberg Zappt..., by the Netherlands' NOS/TROS -- Ivo Niehe Productions; and for Children & Young People, Wise Up, series four episode one, by the U.K.'s Carlton for Channel 4. A special Directorate Award was presented to Dieter Stolte, director general of Germany's ZDF. Jac Venza, director of Cultural and Arts Programs at PBS station Thirteen/WNET, was presented with the Founders Award. In addition, the International Council/UNICEF International Children's Day of Broadcasting Award went to the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation.

During the gala, Georges Leclere was appointed the new executive director of the International Council. Leclere replaces Arthur Kane, who retired from the position at the end of last year.

The third annual Worldwide Television Summit Conference featured several speakers. Emilio Azcarraga Jean, president, chairman and chief executive of Televisa, discussed the TV industry in Mexico. Niraj Gupta, vp and senior analyst at Schroder & Co., said that the outlook for TV in both developed countries and developing areas like Mexico and Eastern Europe is very positive. While Gupta said that free TV has long-term financial prospects, he was most enthusiastic on the subject of pay-TV, which has low penetration in regions like Latin America and Europe. The luncheon speaker was John McCain, U.S. senator from Arizona, whose words struck some of the international attendees as too focused on U.S. television. He dealt with such topics as the TV ratings system, denying that such a system constitutes censorship and toying with possible actions that might be taken against NBC for refusing to carry the ratings (one hypothetical punishment involved taking such refusals into account the next time spectrum allocations come up for review). The final speaker of the day was Herbert Granath, chairman of Disney/ABC International Television, who expressed the opinion that U.S.-style vertical integration and megamergers are translatable to the rest of the world.

The first of the day's three panels posed the question of which medium will come to dominate international distribution. Halsey Minor, chairman and CEO of CNET:The Computer Network, suggested that the Internet might be the winner. Igor Malashenko, president and CEO of Russia's NTV, voiced what turned into a major theme over the course of the day: the idea that the industry pays too much attention to new technologies, which are merely means of delivery, and too little time studying audiences. Kay Koplovitz, founder chairman and CEO of USA Networks, said that people want more content and don't care how they get it. She seemed unperturbed by the prospect of new outlets: "We'll have to access those outlets, but we've done that before. ... If you don't embrace change, you're dead."

The second panel, which was ostensibly about the impact emergent technologies will have worldwide, turned into a heated debate about public and commercial broadcasting. "Television is something that cuts into the living flesh of the people, ... so it must be handled with much care. Much of what we give to the people is pure trash," declared Carlo Sartori, director of Thematic Channels and New Media Services at Italy's RAI. "We have our mission as public broadcasters not to give the people trash." Helmut Thoma, managing director of Germany's RTL, denied that private companies provide trash and public broadcasters provide high art. He said that the programming provided by private broadcasters is the same as that offered by an "outdated living dead organization like public broadcasting." Bristling, Sartori shot back, "Everyone knows perfectly well that they are not dinosaurs." Before this debate, Thoma managed to get a word in on the subject of the panel. He echoed the earlier panelists, saying: "Digital for me is only a way of transport; ... there is no digital TV. If you deliver milk electronically, that doesn't mean you've got electronic milk."

The last panel dealt with the realities and viability of international mergers and partnerships. The H.A.M. Media Group's John Healy asserted that many of the mergers and megamergers that have occurred in the last five years have been ego-driven and haven't served the communities they were supposed to serve. He added that these giants run less effectively than smaller companies would. Remy Sautter, president and CEO of CLT-UFA, added that since each European country has its own local rules and regulators, a big pan-European company can't survive unless it is decentralized.
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Title Annotation:Events
Author:Gallo, Eliza
Publication:Video Age International
Date:Jan 1, 1998
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