Emmy Voting at Work? Eyebrows Raised by Some Networks' Internal Get-Out-the-Vote Efforts

Emmy Statue_2 - Getty - H 2019

In the era of Peak TV, a major Emmy nomination or win can make the difference between a show thriving or disappearing, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that TV networks pull out all the stops on behalf of their slates. What is a bit different this year is the extent to which they have also been working to mobilize their own employees who are members of the TV Academy.

During the Emmy nomination voting period and final voting period, employees on the Fox lot came upon a large sign on the ground floor of an office building that houses employees of FX, among other divisions of the Disney-owned company. Festooned with balloons, it read, "Emmy for Your Consideration Voting," and led into a room outfitted with computers and lunch.

Some feel that this sort of thing implicitly promotes "bloc voting," as in, uniformly supporting the slate of the company that employs you — something for which several TV Academy members lost their right to vote back in June.

But sources at 20th Century Fox Television insist that they were simply trying to make it as easy as possible for their employees who have Emmy votes to participate in the process, and say that they understood this to be the desire of the TV Academy when that organization mailed "I Voted #Emmys" stickers to the networks. These sources insist there was no literature or pamphlets in the room; nobody was taking attendance; and nobody was standing over anyone's shoulder as they voted. "I guarantee you that nobody has been told what to vote for," said one insider. "It's just about convenience and reminding people to use their vote." He added, "I think the amount of people who actually go in there is miniscule, compared to people who vote in their office or whatever."

Numerous other networks also cited the stickers when asked about their get-out-the-vote activities, with one saying it seemed the TV Academy wanted to "event-ize" voting this year. To that end, NBC invited its employees to the courtyard outside of its commissary on the day that final voting began, whereupon employees were offered the opportunity to make and then wear campaign pins touting the network's various nominees — a bit of innocent fun, in the eyes of the Peacock Network. 

Not all of TV's heavy hitters upped the ante this year, as far as lobbying their own employees. "The extent of Netflix's efforts is a digital elevator insert calling out that Emmy voting is now open," says a rep for the streamer. "All we did was send out internal reminders about the start of voting," asserts an Amazon rep. And HBO, as in past years, reminded employees of the voting deadline on its intranet — where it helpfully provided links to the TV Academy's voter site and to the section of HBO's site that lists the cabler's nominations.

The general feeling, across the networks, is that this sort of thing should not — and cannot — be policed too heavily. To some extent, they argue, bloc voting has always existed and will always exist, for the reason cited by Joan Crawford back in the days when film talent was "under contract" to film studios and bloc voting for Oscars was rampant: "You'd have to be a ninny to vote against the studio that has your contract and produces your pictures.”

The TV Academy, for its part, says, "We support all efforts to turn out the vote and we trust our members and the integrity of their vote."