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COUNTERPUNCH

Emmys Really Are Up-to-Date

September 16, 1996|RICHARD H. FRANK | Richard H. Frank is president of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences

There's a suggestion in Howard Rosenberg's review of the Emmy Awards telecast that the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences somehow was not properly respectful of the contributions of cable by its omission from clip packages that nostalgically reached back to remember 50 years of academy and television history ("The Show--A Critic's View," Calendar, Sept. 9). We think Rosenberg is wrong to make such an inference. And the proof, as moms love to say, is in the pudding.

Last year, the academy changed its overall mission by rewording its bylaws to honor programming on "telecommunications," not just television. This was the organization's way of more closely embracing cable and all future carriers on the rapidly advancing electronic super highway. Additionally, we are all aware that cable is more a communication development of the '80s and '90s with emphasis on the '90s. Therefore, cable does not wear the mantle of nostalgia as neatly as the many programs flashed before us as Emmycast clips. And that was the whole idea, entertaining nostalgia.

Furthermore, cable is being recognized more and more each year by the academy (and deservedly so) for the excellence of its programming. This year the number of cable Emmy wins, as we've all witnessed, is larger than ever. What could be more respectful than this kind of recognition--Emmy nominations, Emmy wins?

More importantly, at the academy we don't believe in labeling programming any more than the incorrectness of labeling people. For that reason we avoid mentioning networks and production companies on the air when winners are announced. As a courtesy to the media, our final press release summarizes wins by networks and we roll "thank you" credits at the end of the show, but that's as far as academy labeling goes. The Prime Time Emmys are an annual industry event that may find the star of one network hosting the show when it's produced and telecast by another network. Again, no labels. Just what's best for the industry event.

The academy believes in recognizing and honoring excellence no matter who or what is the national carrier network. We continue to believe that the Emmys have the best awards system of any entertainment organization.

And so, with all due respect to one of our favorite critics on one of our favorite newspapers, we flatly reject the notion that there was an academy slight toward cable because scenes in brief video packages about sitcoms, medical dramas or how sex subjects and doors have been used through the years (all show elements this year) omitted outtakes from some networks for others. Entertainment values, not balancing scales, was the goal of executive producer Dick Clark and his staff in assembling these clips.

See you at next year's Emmys, Howard. It will be the 49th annual. No doubt cable will continue to be a major Emmy-winning player at that time. And no doubt the academy will continue to respect cable programming as part of the entire telecommunications miracle.

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