Emmys rejig judges

Kudos voting nixes conflicts of interest

In addition to changes that will affect what viewers see onscreen, the Emmy Awards are implementing a voting procedure that will alter who is eligible to serve as judges for this year’s kudos — a move that figures to disproportionately disenfranchise the most-nominated network, HBO.

At the same meeting where the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences finalized its “time-shifted” approach to present certain awards, the board of governors amended its conflict-of-interest rules to prevent full-time employees from voting in any category in which their networks are nominated.

As a practical matter, that means employees at HBO — the recipient of 99 nominations, including best comedy, drama, movie and miniseries — would be excluded from final judging panels in all but a few categories, such as reality TV and children’s programming.

According to John Leverence, the TV Academy’s senior VP of awards, the rules shift reflects “one of those evolving situations” from prior guidelines that barred those with direct personal ties to or financial interest in a nominated program from voting in its category.

The revised policy, Leverence said, is to “tighten it up” and will also block those with corporate ties to a specific network from participating. In other words, an NBC Universal employee wouldn’t be impaneled to cast a vote for “30 Rock” as best comedy.

The new language on the Emmy-judging affidavit states, “I am not currently nor have been during the last 12 months an executive employed full-time by a network, studio or production company that has an Emmy nomination pending before my panel.”

Leverence stressed that the TV Academy does not believe the change will unduly penalize any particular network, though that may not sit well with officials at HBO, which reportedly has a long history of encouraging staffers to get involved in the Emmy process.

An HBO spokeswoman declined comment regarding the new rule; however, the pay service has already expressed disappointment over planned presentation changes that will tape-delay eight of the 28 awards, airing shortened versions of acceptance speeches during the Sept. 20 Emmy telecast. Several telepic categories — an area where HBO has won the top prize 14 of the past 16 years — will be among the time-shifted honors.

Leverence acknowledged that the board’s action comes relatively late in the process, with ballots having just gone out for the Creative Arts Awards. Additional ballots for the main ceremony devoted to programs and performers will be sent Monday.

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