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TV academies sparring over statuette fees

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It is the latest wrinkle in the escalating conflict between the West Coast and the East Coast TV academies: The L.A.-based Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which handles the Primetime Emmy Awards, sent letters late last week to its members who are Daytime Emmy nominees offering to pay for their statuettes if they win.

The Daytime Emmys are under the jurisdiction of the New York-based National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which, starting this year, has implemented a new rule whereby only one Emmy statue will be presented in each category. If the winner is a team, all members but the one who accepts the award will be able to purchase their own statuette. The fee is reportedly $250 per trophy.

"The Los Angeles-based Television Academy wants you to know that, as a matter of principle, we do not agree with this decision and do not believe that any Emmy winner should have to pay for their award," ATAS' letter said. "Therefore, we are enacting our own policy to reimburse our members who are Daytime Emmy Award winners."

The letter, signed by Daytime Governor Nancy Bradley Wiard, Daytime Governor/Daytime Awards Committee co-chair Kate Linder and Daytime Awards Committee co-chair Denise Mark, was mailed Friday to 423 Daytime Emmy nominees who are ATAS members.

It came out a day after ATAS filed a lawsuit against NATAS in U.S. District Court, claiming that the New York-based TV academy had been trying to create new broadband Emmy Awards without ATAS' consent. The suit is seeking injunctive relief to prevent NATAS from launching new awards.

"I congratulate them for their generosity," NATAS president and CEO Peter Price said when reached for comment on ATAS' letter Friday. "They have deep pockets and can afford it with their (high) license fee."

The ATAS-run Primetime Awards broadcast, which is considered a marquee TV event, commands a richer license fee NATAS' lower-rated Daytime Emmy Awards.

Price said the decision to limit the number of statues awarded in each category was prompted by a desire to make the Daytime Awards consistent with NATAS' other Emmy Awards shows -- such as those for sports and news & documentary -- which have been handing out one statue per category as well for budgetary concerns.

"In these times, we can't be as lavish as we used to be in terms of additional benefits," he said.

The new rule will bring significant savings to NATAS; a number of categories have more than two dozen people behind each nomination. The number of producers nominated for "The Martha Stewart Show" in the best lifestyle program category is 38.

But some TV academy insiders have been critical of NATAS' strong focus on the bottom line, which they say often comes at the expense of TV creators and talent. Additionally, for the past two years, anyone who wants to submit their work for Daytime Emmy consideration reportedly had to pay NATAS a $350 entry fee. ATAS doesn't charge a fee.