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TV Academy celebrates do-gooders

New awards show honors pro-social programs

The Academy of TV Arts & Sciences will launch a new awards show this spring to recognize pro-social TV programs.

“The Television Academy Honors” is set to be held April 22 at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Launched out of the org’s “Television Cares” committee, the new kudofest “will highlight and demonstrate the good things that TV does,” said TV Academy chairman-CEO Dick Askin.

New ceremony will hand out between six and eight awards — but they won’t be Emmy statuettes. (Under the terms of their 1977 divorce, neither ATAS nor its New York counterpart, the National Academy of TV Arts & Sciences, is allowed to launch new Emmy awards without the other’s approval.)

In addition, the kudos won’t be categorized, which means the focus will be on simply finding a handful of programs that offer up a positive message (think the recent flurry of green-themed series episodes, or “American Idol’s” special “Idol Gives Back” event). Entire series, telepics, miniseries or specials are eligible, as well as individual series episodes or story arcs of up to three episodes.

TV Acad chairman/CEO-elect John Shaffner and screenwriter Lynn Roth heading up the new ceremony as Television Cares Committee co-chairs. Shaffner said he appreciated other pro-social awards like the Humanitas and Peabody kudos but said he believed those events “don’t hit the industry of TV the way we think we can.”

“We’ll throw a wide net, through primetime, daytime and the Internet,” he said. “Our industry gets a pretty bad rap out there. This is an opportunity to look at the good things it’s doing.”

The TV Academy will consider any program that ran between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31 and will accept entries between Jan. 7 and Feb. 4. Honorees will be announced March 11. Should the Writers Guild strike still be ongoing in April, Askin said he’s confident the WGA wouldn’t take issue with the event, particularly since it’s not being broadcast and isn’t being held on a studio lot.

The first “Television Academy Honors” won’t be televised or even Webcast, as TV Acad officials said they’d like to work out the kinks first. (A producer has not yet been named for the ceremony.) But long term, the org sees “Television Academy Honors” as a potential franchise for spring — a slower time of year at the org — to balance out its fall Emmycast.

Organization may ultimately move its pre-existing Governor’s Award and Bob Hope Humanitarian Award to the “Television Academy Honors” event.

The TV Acad announced the new event at a Thursday press conference, which also repped Shaffner’s first meeting with reporters since being appointed to the org’s top volunteer position. Press conference came just days after an arbitration panel ruled in favor of ATAS in its latest feud with NATAS.

The panel halted NATAS’ plans to launch a bevy of Broadband Emmys in categories unrelated to its jurisdiction (which includes news, sports and daytime). Askin called the decision “a defining moment for the future of the Academy.

“Had we not prevailed, the Academy could be in a very different place than where it’s now going,” he declared.

Askin said the org is still evaluating its options in jumpstarting talks with NATAS to launch a Spanish-language Emmy Award ceremony.

The TV Academy officials said the organization is also planning to allocate additional resources to next September’s Primetime Emmy ceremony, which will celebrate its 60th anniversary.

And in his final meeting with reporters, Askin — who steps down at the end of the year after serving two terms as chairman-CEO — said he is proud to have seen the org’s finances increase from $10 million to around $24 million over the past four years. That increase came from the bump in Emmy license fees, as well as the org’s decision to buy its North Hollywood headquarters.

“The Academy has never been in better strength,” Askin said.

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