Gotham, L.A.-based orgs restructure relationship

HOLLYWOOD — The industry’s two rival TV academies have agreed to drop a year-old legal spat over the launch of a Latin Emmy Awards and start healing their longtime rift.

With that litigation out of the way, the New York-based National Academy of TV Arts & Sciences and Los Angeles’ Academy of TV Arts & Sciences have also restructured their relationship — which had grown closer in recent years, until the Latin Emmy clash derailed talk of potential reunification.

Under the new plan, ATAS will take control of the Intl. Academy of TV Arts and Sciences, which hands out the Intl. Emmy Awards. The international arm had previously been under the jurisdiction of NATAS.

In exchange, NATAS will take over the local L.A. chapter of ATAS, subject to the group’s approval. NATAS already oversees local chapters in the rest of the country.

NATAS and ATAS leaders said the agreement signified a “transforming milestone” between the two groups, which officially split in 1977. The sides parted ways after the then-bicoastal org’s New York and Los Angeles leadership decided their differences were irreconcilable.

“The two academies have been adversarial for as long as I can remember,” NATAS chairman Dennis Swanson said. “The problem is it becomes virtually impossible for these two academies to work together and get anything done. … There’s going to be a real opportunity now for cooperation.”

That includes eventually returning to the Latin Emmys issue. But for now, the sides are not moving forward with establishing a separate award.

That’s a reverse for NATAS, which had previously pressed to launch a Spanish-lingo kudofest immediately. ATAS had taken a wait-and-see approach, preferring to study whether a new awards show was feasible.

“The Latin Emmys were something that NATAS felt was a priority, the way they wanted to do it,” ATAS chairman Dick Askin said. “We had feelings that there were other ways to honor Spanish-speaking programming.

“For our purposes, there are a lot of different ways to address it without having a new awards show in primetime. … We felt pretty strongly that a Latin Emmy show the way it was developing was not the way to go.”

For now, given that most primetime shows on major webs Univision and Telemundo are imported telenovelas, that programming is eligible for the Intl. Emmys. Meanwhile, homegrown product such as Univision’s “Sabado Gigante” can be submitted for regular Primetime Emmy consideration.

With both the Primetime and Intl. Emmys now under the ATAS roof, org officials said they believed it would be easier to begin pondering how to handle programming geared toward Spanish-speaking audiences.

“We’re probably better structured now to deal with it in the future,” Swanson said.

Meanwhile, as part of the effort to improve communication between both groups, Swanson said the NATAS and ATAS boards will meet at the Paramount lot in Hollywood in June.

ATAS continues to oversee the Primetime Emmy Awards, while NATAS handles the daytime, news, public service and sports awards as well as oversight of regional TV Acad chapters (which now number 19, including Los Angeles).

Relations between the two orgs were chilly for years but began to thaw in the 1990s. When longtime NATAS chief John Cannon died in 2001, talk of a possible reunification gained steam.

The Latin Emmys squabble ended such talk but, despite the renewed relationship, both sides say a merger isn’t in the immediate future.

“Candidly, the way the structure has been reorganized, I’m not sure the two organizations should be under one roof,” Askin said. “We’re both really now well-defined in our areas. There’s always been a big difference in our missions. To put that under one organization I’m not sure is a goal we’ll be working toward.”

Swanson said he and Askin would likely leave such talk to future org leaders.

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