Union and Divorce Within the Television Academy

In 1955, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) was established in New York by Ed Sullivan, to serve as a partnering organization to ATAS, helping to oversee the Emmy Awards as well as to serve East Coast television interests. They also saw to establishing regional branches of the organization throughout the nation, so that each could also develop its own Emmy awards specifically to honor achievements in local programming that might otherwise go overlooked. In 1957, the two Academies officially merged to operate collectively under the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences name. Ed Sullivan served as the organization's president - and from there, every two years, the merged Television Academies would alternate having one of its members fill the position.

Tensions between the East and West coast chapters had begun brewing by the early 1960s, with one source of dispute being the decision to relocate the national office from New York to Hollywood in 1964. Academy members in New York were rubbed the wrong way by the relocation, but Academy members in Los Angeles were struggling with concerns regarding the purity of the Emmys and Academy membership regulations, concerned that the East Coast chapter was too liberal and overly inclusive to allow every member of its chapter to enjoy full voting rights. In contrast, the East Coast chapter regarded the West Coast chapter as too elitist and overly exclusive when it came to those same matters with its membership.

By 1976, the disputes had grown so fierce that they threatened to dismantle the union between the two organizations. In an effort to resolve their differences, each chapter selected its own five member team to meet for two days of negotiations, with one of the conclusions being reached that only members participating in national television would be allowed full voting rights - which would basically mean that only members of the regional chapters would be excluded form voting. Still, the New York chapter was not satisfied with the negotiations, and after that year's Emmy Awards ceremony, the Los Angeles filed a lawsuit to dissolve the organization.

The response from the East Coast chapter was to counter sue for the rights to the Television Academy as a whole. Until the groups finally agreed to part ways from one another in 1977 and a legal settlement had been reached, with both chapters retaining national status as well as their original names, day to day operations of both chapters had been stifled while both had their assets frozen throughout the course of litigation. According to the terms of their separation, the Los Angeles chapter would remain in control of their own chapter as well as the primetime Emmy awards, and the New York chapter would have jurisdiction over its own chapter, the nineteen regional chapters that held their own Emmys ceremonies, and control over the Daytime, News, Documentary and Sports Emmy awards. Both chapters would retain ownership of the Emmy statue and trademark, and both chapters grant one another 15% of the television revenues from their own awards show broadcasts. There is no doubt that regular corporate award ceremonies in industries such as advertising or finance have had significantly less controversy.

The author of this article is 10 year veteran in the crystal awards and recognition gifts industry.

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