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If the Emmy Wins an Award, Who Gets It?

Since the late 1950s, many have wondered why there are two television academies instead of just one -- the original being the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS). The question has finally been answered: Everyone wants to be the boss and that is impossible to achieve with only one academy.

The consequence is that today's U.S. TV industry has several Emmy Awards shows: the primetime Emmy Awards in Los Angeles and the daytime, sports, news, documentary, scientific, technical and local Emmy Awards in New York. The New York chapter also handles the International Emmy Awards in association with the International Council (IC). This maze of Emmys keeps the industry busy in April, May, September, October and November.

TV thespians are wise to the fact that in 1957, variety-show host Ed Sullivan split from the Los Angeles-based ATAS and founded the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) in New York. But the answer to why this rift has continued for so long has always been up for grabs. According to IC executive director Georges Leclere, the duo of academies is due to a problem of egos. Having two institutions allows more power to be distributed among the academies' executives.

Stories continue to float that Sullivan forced the coup -- when ATAS was barely nine years old -- because of his frustration at never having been awarded an Emmy himself. It was allegedly Sullivan's intention to relocate the academy's seat of power from Los Angeles to New York where he could control it more effectively. However, according to NATAS officials, "A second central office was formed simply because the U.S. television industry is such a large one. One academy was simply not enough for everything television has to offer, from primetime to daytime to international programming. Therefore, instead of one conglomerate giving sparse attention to all of its many parts, the television industry created two award academies so each chapter could receive an equal amount of attention and recognition." Naturally, this explains the reason for a second base, but not for a separate academy.

The history behind ATAS, the original academy with 10,000 members currently, goes like this: While commercial television broadcasts began in 1939 on CBS and NBC, it was not until February 12, 1946 that the world's first television broadcast via coaxial cable was transmitted from New York to Washington, D.C., linking the two cities and signaling the beginning of network television. Although it would be a full year before NBC would establish the first permanent network, it was clear that the new medium was going to change the face of entertainment.

Syd Cassyd, a reporter for the nowdefunct TV trade magazine Boxoffice, recognized television's potential and organized a meeting of some Hollywood "movers and shakers" in March 1946 to discuss an academy for television similar to what the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was for film.

Only seven people attended the first meeting. However, out of that small gathering Cassyd created the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences as a clearinghouse for ideas about the new medium and as a forum to strengthen television's position in the entertainment industry. By the fifth meeting, over 250 people had joined, including actors, directors, producers and members of trade unions. After only a couple of years, the organization's influence was blossoming within the industry. Entertainer Edgar Bergan was the first elected president and the Emmy Awards show premiered in 1948.

Originally, the Emmys were going to be called the Ikes, for the television iconoscope tube. However, because of concern the awards would be linked to well-known World War II General Dwight D. "Ike" Eisenhower, ATAS member Harry Lubcke of the Society of Television Engineers came up with "Immy," a term used for the early image orthicon camera tube, which was later modified to "Emmy."

Since the establishment of NATAS (currently represented by 17 chapters nationwide -- excluding Los Angeles -- and boasting 12,000 members), the N.Y.-L.A. groups remained bitter rivals as they attempted to "share" the Emmy Awards, resulting in the ceremony being simulcast from both coasts. Finally, in 1977 after several lawsuits, the East and West Coast factions hammered out a separation of powers.

The main reason for this battle is that both NATAS and ATAS want to capture the networks, as well as an audience, for their Emmy Awards shows. Each academy wants to be the prominent one, but with five nationwide Emmy Awards events (plus the local ones), there are simply too many.

The IC, representing the world's largest production, distribution and broadcast companies, was formed in 1969 by Renato Pachetti of Italy's RAI and Ralph Baruch of Viacom to promote excellence in international television. Although part of NATAS, the IC operates under its own board of directors and consults with ATAS.

After analyzing the history of the academies, one wonders if they will ever reunite. The IC is doing everything possible to link the forces of NATAS and ATAS because it would make the International Emmy Awards show much easier to produce.

According to Leclere, a reunion could happen for two reasons: one, it is the practical thing to do, and two, there are just too many awards shows. The more awards shows that emerge, the more each one is weakened. Together, NATAS and ATAS would be all the more authoritative, magnifying the Emmy as the center of the television industry.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:history
Author:Serafini, Dom
Publication:Video Age International
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2001
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