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Behind the Secrets of Emmy Award Voting: An Honor System

September 19, 2002|Tom O'Neil

Emmy Award voting is different in one key way from the process used to select Oscar, Grammy and Tony winners: Voters must weigh a sample of every nominee's work before deciding each category.

In the Oscar contest, that restriction applies only to such specialty categories as foreign-language film and documentaries. At the Emmys, it applies to all categories.

Voters are restricted to participating in only four categories related to their peer group (actors on actors, writers on writers, etc.) so they're not overloaded with too many videotapes. All members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences can vote for the best comedy, drama, movie and miniseries categories.

In the series competitions, actors submit one episode as a sample of their best work; supporting stars submit two. Producers of series nominated for best drama or comedy submit eight episodes (approximately one-third of the TV season), which are divided into four sets of two episodes each.

The sets are distributed randomly to voters, who view both samples of each of the five shows nominated. In the writing and directing categories, specific episodes are nominated, so voters evaluate those.

All voters must sign affidavits attesting that they've viewed everything when they submit their ballots. It's an honor system, but one that seems to be holding, and it certainly expanded the number of academy members who vote; the total this year was triple what it was just before the new rules were imposed for the 2000 contest.

This year 5,700 of the 11,000 members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences chose Emmy winners in 86 categories after viewing 37,000 VHS tapes.

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