NATAS appeals part of Emmy ruling

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The New York-based National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has appealed part of a recent arbitration panel ruling that found in favor of the L.A.-based Academy of Television Arts and Sciences on several contentious issues between the two organizations.

NATAS said Thursday that it has filed a petition to "vacate an award" of the American Arbitration Assn., which recently barred NATAS from "awarding any new Emmys which infringe on the genres reserved to ATAS: drama, comedy, variety shows, music, 'longform,' reality shows, children's animation, made for television movies and nonfiction filmmaking."

The arbitrators also ruled that each academy can award Emmys for broadband content only in the genres under their jurisdiction, which allows NATAS to honor broadband sports and news programs, among others.

On Thursday, NATAS said it filed a request in New York state Supreme Court in Manhattan "as part of its obligation and fiduciary responsibility to address what it sees as the AAA's rewriting of a 30-year agreement fashioned by both parties in 1977" in light of a dissent written by George C. Pratt, one of the judges on the three-member panel.

Specifically, the word "genres" in the panel's ruling is causing confusion, NATAS president and CEO Peter Price said. He said the 1977 agreement split up Emmy Awards jurisdiction between the two academies around dayparts (NATAS awards programming in daytime, from 2 a.m.-6 p.m.; ATAS in the remaining hours of the day) and that the panel's ruling about the "genres" ATAS oversees contradicts the "dayparts" outlined in the 30-year-old contract, which had led to ambiguity.

Price said that following the ruling, ATAS asked NATAS to cancel the 59th Annual Emmy Awards for Engineering and Technology, scheduled for Jan. 7 in Las Vegas, arguing that NATAS did not have "genre" jurisdiction.

"Arbitration is supposed to resolve conflict, not create it," Price said. "The panel created ambiguity. It's not in their authority to rewrite the contract. The agreement does not once have the word 'genre' mentioned. Are we supposed to disinvite everyone to the awards show and tell the winners not to come? An arbitration panel cannot rewrite a contract between two parties; the dissending arbitrator, in very vivid upset language, said this is wrong."

NATAS said Thursday that it is seeking a "prompt hearing" on its challenge to the ruling.

ATAS issued a statement in response to the news Thursday.

"The arbitration, which reflected the majority opinion, ruled resoundingly in favor of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences," a spokesperson said. "The ruling speaks for itself."
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