Disney’s Frank again atop ATAS

Walt Disney Studios prez Richard Frank has again been elected president of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, this time with what promises to be expanded influence over the Acad through recent changes in its bylaws.

Frank, who served as prez of the organization from 1985-87, ranunopposed for the office; his election was made official by the board of governors Wednesday night. He succeeds Leo Chaloukian, who had completed two consecutive terms — the maximum under ATAS bylaws.

Others elected Wednesday, also to two-year terms, are VP Stuart Berg, second veep Jan Scott, secretary Nancy B. Wiard, treasurer Meryl C. Marshall and L.A.-area veepee Don Tillman.

Although some officers have new positions, Wiard, from the daytime programming branch, is the only new addition other than Frank, with Jerry Weiss ending his term.

The six officers are on the executive committee, along with ATAS Foundation prez Thomas Sarnoff and, under recent changes approved by the governors, six yet-to-be-named Frank appointees who will now enjoy full voting rights.

The governors, with two members from each of 25 branches, will also select two of their members to sit on that 15-member body.

In an interview, Frank said he sought the position again because he believes the Academy “feels somewhat rudderless” and needs to make good on its mandate to be more than just the body that hands out the Emmy Awards.

“Over the last six years, I’ve seen the Academy sort of lose direction,” Frank said, adding that his first priority at the next board meeting Oct. 13, when new officers will be installed, is for the governors to draft a “vision statement” of what the Academy wants to achieve. “Until we do that, we’ll be hit and miss,” he said.

Frank sees the Academy’s mission as representing the industry, framing issues , establishing a forum where those matters can be discussed and occasionally taking positions or action — such as the joint industry anti-drug effort “Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue,” initiated during Frank’s last tenure.

Role models

He also said that he’ll call upon the governors to be less bound by the interests of their particular peer groups and more concerned about what’s ultimately best for the Academy and industry. “Even though people are elected by their peer groups, they have to start acting like a senator of the United States” and represent broader interests, Frank said.

The incoming president inherits his share of baggage with the job, including the hostility stemming from the recent exclusive ABC Emmy deal, which Frank helped broker as head of the negotiating committee.

Frank also inked the first three-year Fox Broadcasting Co. deal during his last stint as ATAS president.

Downplays tension

As for changes in the executive committee, which prompted initial concern that top industry execs were wresting control of the Academy from the board of governors, Frank contended that those talking about tension between the factions “may be looking for a problem that’s not there.”

Frank said he’s been meeting with groups of governors to assure them that the 50 members (two from each peer group) wouldn’t be cut out of the loop. He added that there are advantages to attracting high-powered people “capable of getting things done” to become involved with the Academy. His exec appointments will probably be announced next week.

Disney duties

At the time the bylaws were amended, ATAS officials said changes were intended to provide greater latitude in dealing with administrative matters that didn’t require involving the full board — stressing that the governors would still have final say on all significant issues.

Frank has held his current position at Disney since 1985, overseeing such diverse areas as production and distribution, KCAL-TV, and the Disney Channel.

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