Latin Emmys Go to Arbitration


Whether or not a first-ever Latin Emmy Awards takes place next year may rest
on an arbitrator's call.

The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, frustrated over its
inability to make a 2003 Latin Emmy partnership with the Academy of Television
Arts & Sciences happen, filed a demand for arbitration in New York Thursday
afternoon, anticipating the possibility that the latter organization might seek
to bar an event from happening.

As reported in Multichannel News Day earlier, New York-based NATAS --
which annually handles the Daytime, News and Sports Emmy Awards -- approved a
Latin Emmy initiative and has been discussing a joint venture to do the show
with ATAS, which conducts the Primetime Emmy Awards, since the summer.

Because the rights to the Emmy trophy itself are shared between the parties, any new national awards event must be signed off on by NATAS and ATAS together, unless the event is "unreasonably withheld" by either group, according to a 1977 NATAS/ATAS relationship agreement.

Both parties have approached Spanish-language television organizations for
support, including Univision Communications Inc. and NBC-owned Telemundo
Communications Group Inc., along with Latino community officials in government
and other areas.

NATAS filed its demand with the American Arbitration Association, through
noted attorney/Microsoft Corp. antitrust-lawsuit participant David Boies. It's
unclear how long the association will take to deal with NATAS' request.

NATAS president Peter Price sees arbitration as a last resort and still wants
to go forward with a co-supported Latin Emmys, but he can't fathom why ATAS
isn't on board yet. "They've not responded positively or negatively to it, and
it's almost been seven months since we proposed this," he said. "We just want to
get on with the show. If we keep waiting, we won't get it on until 2004, and
that's inappropriate, given the growth of Spanish-language TV."

In a statement released from ATAS late Thursday, president Todd Leavitt
asserted that numerous concerns must be resolved before his group is comfortable
signing off on the project.

"If Mr. Price had done as much listening as he's done talking, he would know
that the Hispanic community is divided on this issue and interested in more
dialogue before moving ahead," he said.

Leavitt claimed that his organization was meeting with members of the
Hispanic Congressional Caucus when NATAS made its arbitration-demand

ATAS "will continue to stay involved in this issue, passionately believing in
diversity and the honoring of all quality television, while at the same time
protecting the rights of our organization's leadership to make its own informed
decisions on its own appropriate timetable," chairman Bryce Zabel said.

Some of the concerns coming to the surface from different parties include
whether there should be a separate Latin Emmy event in the first place, and if
there is, should all Spanish-produced programs be eligible, or just
U.S.-produced programs?

"Sure, there's a lot of homework to do, and we've done a lot of homework
already," Price said. "What we're getting back from ATAS is: 'Sorry, you can't
participate without us.' Part of the issue is that they haven't spelled out a
problem. If there's one, we want to work it out."

Telemundo chief operating officer Alan Sokol, who has addressed both NATAS
and ATAS on the subject, hopes both parties can settle their differences before
an arbitrator does.

"Spanish-language programming is not recognized at all [on a national awards
level], and it's inequitable that in this day and age, programming that reaches
35 million Hispanics is invisible in the general Emmy Awards," Sokol said.

Telemundo is pressing for a separate program, with all Spanish fare
qualifying, regardless of source, as long as it runs on a U.S.-distributed

Other Spanish-language TV providers were unavailable for