Recently, every time the Academy Awards come around they generate a discussion about the members of the Academy which votes for nominees and then winners. Do they need to change? Is it diverse enough? Yet, the Emmy Awards never get that sort of reception but maintain a similar system.
Admittedly, nobody really knows who is in the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS) – the body which vote on the Emmy Awards – so it’s hard to call them out on diversity. Also, the judges in the final stage are only allowed to serve two consecutive years in a row which means that it’s not always the same people voting but it could be argued that there is a certain type of person voting.
The way that Emmy voting works is as follows:
- Initial nominations are submitted and ballots are sent to all of the Academy members.
- The Academy members then vote on who the final nominees should be. Peer groups members vote in their own categories (actors vote for actors, writers for writers etc.) and everybody votes in the program categories.
- After sending in their ballots, those with the most votes are announced as nominees.
- These nominees select one or two episodes and these are sent to and watched by an even smaller group of volunteer judges (again, the voting is divided by peer group).
- The judges rank the entries they watch and all of these votes are tallied and a winner is selected.
At first glance it seems like a fair procedure but there are huge holes in the system. The idea of ‘volunteer judges’ is problematic as they are sent the episodes to watch at home but there is no way to guarantee that they actually do so. Until the year 2000, the final judging panels met in L.A. and had a two-day marathon in which they watched all of the nominated shows. This newer system might be more convenient but it means that the Academy just trusts the judges to fully view every show, and whilst that’s a nice idea, it isn’t realistic.
The most prominent people in the range of fields that the Academy covers are in that position because they worked hard to get there. They are busy and if they become judges they truly may not have the time to properly view every episode of the different shows. Instead, they would probably just vote for the show that they already watch and enjoy.
On the other side of that, they might just not volunteer which means that the final judges will largely be made up of retired people from the field who have more time on their hands. This creates the issue in which most of the members of the Academy that are now retired are old and white. That’s not to say that they don’t deserve a vote but diversity isn’t just a buzz word: it’s important and it’s necessary if you’re casting a vote on something that’s watched by so many different types of people.
Television is our most accessible form of entertainment so it has the most diverse range of viewership. Emmy voters need to reflect that.
What do you think of the Emmy voting system? Is it fair? Let me know in the comments.