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Academy Eases Its Rules on Emmy Voting

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the wake of criticism regarding the outcome of last year’s Nighttime Emmy Awards, the organization that presents the annual television honors has revised the process for selecting winners in key categories.

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences board voted overwhelmingly Wednesday evening to amend its rules, allowing the group’s members to view episodes of nominees in the series, acting, directing and writing fields on videotape at home.

Those winners were previously chosen from among the five nominees by peer-group judging panels that assembled at the Beverly Hilton Hotel over a weekend in August. Critics have contended that system prevented the academy’s most active members from participating in the final voting, leaving decisions regarding who ultimately receives Emmys to those who have time to spare on the awards just as production ramps up for the new TV season.

In recent years the Emmys have developed a reputation for nominating daring or groundbreaking programs but overlooking them when awards time rolls around, due at least in part to this procedural quirk.

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Last year, for example, Home Box Office’s “The Sopranos” garnered more nominations and generated more discussion within the TV industry than any series, but ABC’s “The Practice” claimed the statuette for best drama. Such results have fed a perception that those who vote are out of step with the larger membership.

Chris Albrecht, president of original programming for HBO and a member of the academy’s executive committee, has been a proponent of implementing change. “My point [has been] we had a credibility issue, and Emmy is only as important as it is respected,” he said.

Academy Chairman Meryl Marshall stressed the revision was less about seeking to change outcomes than allowing those who are busiest within the industry to take part and feel invested in the awards.

Of the academy’s 9,500 members, only about 1,000 serve each year on the final judging panels, with as few as 10 voting in some of the 77 categories and only 100 or so picking winners for best comedy and drama. Technical categories will still be chosen by the peer-judging method, providing some basis for comparison with the new approach.

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The academy is hoping the amended rules will allow more members to participate, though voters will still have to volunteer their time--viewing cassettes within a 10-day window--and sign an affidavit saying they have no direct interest in the nominees.


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