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A Small Boycott Amid High Hopes for Emmys on ABC : Television: Execs at CBS, NBC and Fox are staying away to protest the lack of show rotation among networks. But the stars are likely to show up.


Anyone tuning into Sunday's Emmy Awards telecast on ABC to check out what NBC Entertainment President Warren Littlefield or CBS Entertainment President Jeff Sagansky is wearing is bound to be disappointed.

Executives at CBS, NBC and Fox are boycotting the Emmys this year to express their anger over the four-year, exclusive telecast agreement signed this year between ABC and the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. They had expected to be part of an agreement in which the event would rotate among all four networks.

But, unlike a 1980 boycott by members of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, who were on strike at the time, this protest probably will not be evident to viewers. The networks have not sought to keep stars or program writers, producers and directors from attending the ceremony at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium (which will be seen on tape-delay here at 8 p.m., Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42).

The biggest effect of the boycott is economic. The networks not telecasting the event usually buy up to 100 tickets each to the ceremony (at $300 apiece this year). They also place ads in the academy's Emmy Magazine touting their nominees. But Fox, CBS and NBC are not doing either this year.

"The lack of advertising did hurt the magazine--we lost about $70,000 on that," said James Loper, executive director of the television academy. But ticket sales for the Emmy ceremony and the dinner-dance afterward are almost at capacity, he said.

"Offsetting the economics is the amount in license fees and expenses that ABC is spending--about $2 million more over the next four years than had we gone along with the network rotation," Loper said.

The license fee for the ceremony generally ranges from $2.5 million to $2.7 million, he said.

Don Micsher, executive producer of the telecast, does not expect the boycott to cloud the ceremony, and he is hoping other controversies don't mar the proceedings. Last year's Emmys drew criticism because of its political tone, as numerous celebrities used the proceedings as a forum to respond to the furor raised by then-Vice President Dan Quayle when he blasted the fictional character of Murphy Brown for having a child out of wedlock.

"There doesn't seem to be as much focus on controversy this year as there was the last year," Mischer said. Nevertheless, he has written a letter to all presenters and nominees asking them to "represent the industry well" and to keep their remarks brief.

Adding a bit of additional insurance for decorum, Mischer hopes, will be hostess Angela Lansbury. "Angela will set a tone of integrity," he said.

Highlights of this year's ceremony will include segments looking back on the season, Mary Tyler Moore taking a look at the last episodes of long-running series, and a tribute to miniseries.

Mischer is also hoping to trim some of the fat out of the awards ceremony, which usually runs more than three hours. Four fewer awards--27 instead of 31--will be presented during the telecast, and there will be only single presenters instead of two, eliminating the need for banter.

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