In what amounts to a repudiation of the current elected regime at the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Bryce Zabel was elected chairman of the organization Wednesday night and will oversee the nonprofit group responsible for handing out the nighttime Emmy Awards as it heads into a significant window in its history.
Zabel, a writer-producer whose credits include such programs as "Dark Skies" and "The Crow," becomes the first writer to head the academy since the late Rod Serling in the 1960s.
He will succeed Meryl Marshall-Daniels, who is nearing the end of her second consecutive two-year term as chairman and could not run again under the organization's bylaws.
Zabel defeated Jeffrey Cole, director of the UCLA Center for Communication Policy, who had been endorsed by a nominating committee chaired by Marshall-Daniels. In fact, every officer nominated by that committee except one was defeated, representing a clear rejection of the slate Marshall-Daniels had given the nod to to succeed her.
The lone exception was Dick Askin, who was elected first vice chairman. Askin is president of Tribune Entertainment, which, like the Los Angeles Times, is owned by Tribune Co. The other new officers, all elected to two-year terms, are second vice chairman John Shaffner, secretary Daniel H. Birman, treasurer Leo Chaloukian--a past president of the academy--and Los Angeles-area vice chairman Mitch Waldow.
Although the academy has more than 11,000 members, only the 67 members of the board of governors and executive committee participate in voting for officers. In an interview Thursday9, Zabel said his priorities include smoothing some of the internal political discord that has plagued the organization in recent years and opening up the process of decision-making to better involve the board of governors, which consists of two members from each of the academy's 27 peer groups.
Zabel also stressed his intent to delegate responsibility, after Marshall-Daniels had reportedly clashed with the academy's president and top staff member, Jim Chabin, because of her hands-on management style in the unpaid position.
"I don't intend for it to be my full-time job," Zabel said, adding that he hopes to inspire more people to participate by demonstrating that "those of us who do [actively] work in television can still be part of the academy."
Two major issues face the academy: negotiating a new broadcast agreement for the Emmy Awards, given that the current deal--in which the telecast rotates among the four major networks--expires next year; and a possible merger with the New York-based National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which presents the news, sports and daytime Emmys. Academy officials are hoping to substantially increase the fee the organization receives to broadcast the Emmys, which is now about $3 million a year--far less than what counterparts garner for the Oscars and Grammys.