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Stakes big in TV Academy election

Could help determine future direction of Emmycast

The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences — or actually, less than one-half percent of its 16,000 members — will select a new chairman this week in an election that will help determine not only the organization’s overall direction but the tough choices it will make about amending its signature event, the nighttime Emmy Awards.

The TV Academy’s board of governors and executive committee will vote Wednesday night in a race for the top elected post pitting Warner Bros. TV Group prexy Bruce Rosenblum against independent consultant Nancy Bradley Wiard. The board consists of 13 elected or appointed committee members and two representatives from each of 28 peer groups, or 69 people in all.

Not that all of them will be able to vote. Because the TV Academy selects leaders via secret ballot, only those who can attend the meeting are allowed to register a selection, which is a rule under California law.

If selected, Rosenblum would be the highest-ranking exec to head the TV Academy since Richard Frank, then chief of Walt Disney Studios, in the mid-1990s. Electing Rosenblum — part of a three-member office of the president at Warner Bros. — would counter a long-standing complaint by some executives that the TV Academy lacks the participation of top industry leaders.

By contrast, Wiard — part of the daytime programming branch — has long been active in the TV Academy and currently serves in its No. 2 position, vice chairman. She spent close to 30 years working on daytime drama “The Young and the Restless” until 2003 and has since been an independent producer and consultant.

Victor will succeed John Shaffner, a production designer, who is maxed out by having served consecutive two-year terms. The results will be tabulated shortly after the vote Wednesday, said chief operating officer Alan Perris, who noted that the TV Academy is “a volunteer organization, run by elected volunteers.”

Although the race looks like a mismatch on paper, the TV Academy is unpredictable. In December 2009, incumbent Shaffner was opposed by new-media rep Brian Seth Hurst, and the voting twice ended in a tie. After submitting a second ballot, many board members went home, forcing a run-off election three weeks later.

The TV Academy’s democratic structure levels the playing field, allowing below-the-line members a voice equal to that of execs and talent. Still, the group has at times been characterized by bickering and infighting, and what’s sometimes described as an insular culture makes it challenging for younger members to get involved.

Whoever winds up as chairman will face thorny issues with regard to the Emmys. An earlier attempt to streamline the awards by taping some earlier in the day and reducing (or “time-shifting”) their presence in the live telecast fizzled after strong opposition by the Hollywood talent guilds.

It’s anticipated that the broadcast networks — which renewed their Emmy contract through 2018 earlier this year — will demand fewer on-air awards to make the presentation more TV-friendly, which could cause the Writers Guild and Directors Guild to pull waivers for the use of clips during the telecast.

In earlier interviews, Rosenblum and Wiard acknowledged that the organization faces pressure to tinker with the Emmy format but said any changes would be made in consultation with the governors.

In addition to chairman, the occupants of several other elected posts will be chosen Wednesday. Candidates in every race — 14 in all — will be provided three minutes each to deliver an election pitch to the governors prior to the voting.

Producer-executive Kevin Hamburger and PR exec Stacey Luchs-Struber are vying for vice chair, while actors rep Conrad Bachmann, director John Moffitt and Frank Scherma of the commercials peer group are up for second vice chair.

Marcelino Ford (interactive) and Sheila Manning (commercials) are running for secretary, with five candidates — Charles Avrum Lenhoff (representatives), Kate Linder (performers), Lee Miller (directors), Susan Nessanbaum-Goldberg (production executives) and Steven Venezia (sound) — competing for treasurer.

Joetta Di Bella is unopposed as the L.A.-area representative.

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