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Give TV Academy President Praise She Deserves

July 09, 2001|JOHN MOFFITT | John Moffitt of Moffitt-Lee Productions is executive producer of "Hollywood Squares" and of eight "Comic Relief" shows. The company has won two Prime Time Emmy Awards

Reading Brian Lowry's recent story on the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences ("Toughest Decisions Are Behind the Scenes," Calendar, June 22), I was greatly distressed that it so understated Meryl Marshall-Daniels' contribution to the Academy and the great strides the Academy has taken over the past several years.

As a television director, I represented the directors peer group and served my first year on the board under the last year of the preceding academy president and found the organization steeped in lethargy. In previous years, the governors met monthly and virtually rubber-stamped everything presented to them. Under the academy's current administration, divergent viewpoints are encouraged and respected, which creates lively, healthy and most productive debate.

I was privileged to serve for two terms on the board and was elected to the executive committee twice in a row by the board--not appointed by the chairman. Term limits under the academy bylaws have prevented me from serving again; however, my recent experience in those positions allows me some insight into the current TV academy.

Lowry failed to acknowledge several initiatives that have taken place under Marshall-Daniels' leadership. She has led the effort to link artists in television with the public and private sector through participation with California Alliance for Arts Education, the American Assembly, Americans for the Arts and others. Significantly, this administration linked educators from around the country with industry professionals to draft "A Framework for Teaching and Learning through the Art and Technologies of Television." In addition, the academy participated in the development of curriculum for fourth through 12th graders, which is being utilized in 12 elementary and middle schools in Los Angeles. This program is being launched in additional schools throughout the state.

Marshall-Daniels initiated moving the Prime Time Emmy Awards to the Shrine Auditorium, substantially increasing attendance and revenue. And, with the help of executive committee member Jeff Cole, she led the academy's vote to add the Interactive Peer Group--a reflection of our need to lead in the changing landscape of television's future.

She has led the effort to incorporate diversity into the mission of the academy, reflected in the establishment of a diversity outreach committee with activities, speakers and events with programs such as "A Salute to Latinos in Television" and "Creating a Place for Everyone." She has joined with the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission to organize a major youth programming summit titled "Through the Eyes of Children."

As Lowry did note, for the last several years, the academy has elevated the Creative Arts Awards. Marshall-Daniels found that awards ceremony its first broadcast partners on TV Land, then for two years on HBO Plus. This year, at president Jim Chabin's instigation, the awards will be seen in a two-hour special on E! Entertainment Television. The upgrading of the Creative Arts Awards has been one of Marshall-Daniels' great achievements.

So why can't we just get along? Well, controversy with divergent viewpoints can be a good thing if it takes place in an open forum. With our board of governors, it can show a passionate interest in the academy's direction and leadership during this continuing period of change, especially with the new possibility of reconciling with the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. But the petty "negative" clandestine politics that have seemingly returned to the academy and reached Lowry's attention are not doing anybody any good, least of all if these people truly care about the academy.

We have had extraordinary leadership at the academy during Marshall-Daniels' term. Most of us who have worked with her will verify that her legacy is an academy that is stronger, clearer in direction, more diversified and better funded. She will be a hard act to follow.


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