TV acads at odds over ad Emmys

In the equivalent of a custody dispute erupting 20 years after a divorce, the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has made an issue of the fact that its estranged counterpart — the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences — has instituted an outstanding commercial category for this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards.

NATAS, in a statement issued Monday, said it was “astonished” to find that ATAS had nominated five commercials for Emmys. As a result, NATAS submitted the matter to arbitrator Edward C. Costello Jr. on July 25 — the day after the nominations were announced — and hopes the arbitrator rules against ATAS having the right to issue such an award.

The NATAS statement pointed to a joint resolution made between NATAS and ATAS on May 18, 1992, in which both academies “unanimously agreed that the goals of the academies are not served by the recognition of commercials.”

On Jan. 24 of this year ATAS announced its intention to recognize commercials with a Primetime Emmy for the first time.

ATAS responded Monday by pointing out that NATAS had sought restraining orders “preventing ATAS from proceeding with the (category)” but that the orders “were not granted by the arbitrator.”

“ATAS is free to continue with the contest, pending the results of arbitration. It is anticipated that the arbitrator’s award (which ATAS believes will be favorable) will be rendered within the week,” the response said.

NATAS and ATAS split off into separate factions in 1977. In the divorce, the New York-based NATAS was granted “custody” of the daytime, news, sports, documentary and international Emmys, while the North Hollywood-based ATAS received the primetimes. NATAS was also given control over all 20 TV Academy chapters aside from the one in NoHo.

It’s unclear if the NATAS beef centers specifically on the fact that some of the nominated commercials aired during the daytime hours, which would fall under the jurisdiction of NATAS.

ATAS treasurer Meryl Marshall, who is running for ATAS presidency, admitted that she has “no clue” what might be motivating the NATAS dispute.

“All I can tell you is what our motivation is,” she said, “and that is that an Emmy should be given to recognize excellence and achievement in the arts and sciences of television, and commercials currently demonstrate some of the finest developments in the art of storytelling and technical achievement in our industry. So it’s inappropriate for us to ignore commercials.”

Marshall added that the 1992 joint resolution referred to in the NATAS statement “never passed.”

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