ATAS rewards the 'good'

New trophy show fights 'bad rap'

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is launching an awards show next year to honor what it's calling "television with a conscience."

The Television Academy Honors will recognize programming that presents "issues of concern to society in a compelling, emotional and insightful way," the organization said Thursday. The awards will be handed out April 22 at the Beverly Hills Hotel.

"We want to honor programming that highlights and demonstrates the good things that television does," ATAS chairman and CEO Dick Askin said. "This is going to become another franchise for the Television Academy."

The awards are an outgrowth of ATAS' Television Cares Committee and are created and shepherded by committee chairman John Shaffner, ATAS' chairman and CEO-elect, and committee co-chair Lynn Roth.

"We'll identify six to eight programs that address social issues in a positive manner and potentially alter the way (viewers) think about things," Shaffner said. "The industry gets a bad rap sometimes, and this is an opportunity to spotlight (programming) that might get overlooked."

The inaugural ceremony will not be televised, though Askin said the hope is that future ceremonies will be. Because the initial show will not be broadcast, Askin said he expects a waiver from the WGA if the writers are still striking come showtime.

Askin added that the honorees' awards will not be in the form of Emmy statuettes. "These honors are separate and distinct from the Emmys," he said.

Categories have not been set, but both scripted and unscripted programs airing in 2007 are eligible and can be submitted between Jan. 7-Feb. 4 as a whole series, a single episode or a story arc up to three episodes. Telefilms, miniseries and specials also are eligible. A 20-person committee will choose the honorees, which will be announced in early March. Further details can be found at Emmys.org.

ATAS also will continue handing out the Governors Award and the Bob Hope Humanitarian Award, which could move to the new awards show in the future.

Askin said the news comes after ATAS has seen its net worth grow from $10 million in 2003 to $23 million-$24 million today, thanks in part to increased license fees for the Emmy Awards and ATAS' decision to purchase the North Hollywood property where its headquarters are located.

He added that the organization is making plans for a 60th anniversary celebration of the Primetime Emmy Awards next year, with details forthcoming.

Meanwhile, Askin and Shaffner also addressed the idea of a Spanish-language Emmy Awards show, a longtime bone of contention between ATAS and the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. NATAS has been trying to launch the show for five years, but ATAS has been reluctant to move forward with the awards, citing concerns of oversaturating the Emmy Awards shows and offending the Hispanic community.

An arbitration panel recently asked ATAS to consent to the parties' February 2007 Joint Committee proposal or to present facts in support of a refusal for the show.

Shaffner said Thursday that one concern is determining whether there is enough Spanish-language programming originating in the U.S. to ensure a healthy competition.
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