Latin Emmys Not a Buen Idea

Parity in the Industry, not another awards show, is what is really needed

By Al Carlos Hernandez
Published on LatinoLA: December 29, 2002

Latin Emmys Not a Buen Idea

In a move that would make segregationists proud, the New York-based Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) has announced that it would launch a Latin Emmy Awards show next year. This kind of separate but equal thinking could someday pave the way for an all Latino Special Olympics somewhere down the road.

The announcement -- albeit aggressively ignorant -- is not final as the decision has to be confirmed by the other TV governing body, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS) which is based in LA, and the West Coasters are not having it.

East Coast and West Coast factions of the ?Academy?, with a Police Academy-movie mentality, have been feuding since the late 1940s, so don?t hate the players. The East Coast handles the daytime, news, international and local Emmy competitions. The West Coast handles the prime time Emmy awards.

The announcement surprised the West Coasters who thought that they had set aside their differences and was jointly exploring the Latin Emmy idea. The word ?jointly? is most indicative of their baked frame of mind.

The academy has an agreement that they cannot start a new franchise without the approval of the other, so naturally the East Coasters has brought in a bus load of player-hating lawyers. West-based ATAS recently agreed to a $52 million, eight- year broadcast license fee deal with the six main broadcast networks.

NATAS president Peter O. Price said, ?It appears that we had no choice but to file a demand for arbitration seeking to prevent ATAS from impeding the establishment of the Latin Emmy? and giving Emilio Estafan a lifetime achievement award. OK, I made up the part of giving Emilio another award, but this looks to me like the Latin Grammy sideshow all over again.

The Latin Grammys were thrust upon us as purely a commercial venture, backed by some serious self-serving record company people. Do a survey of the winners, who produced them and from which regions they represent. Contrast that to real Spanish language unit sales, and you will see what happened. The award clearly neglected Mexican norte?o and banda music which outsells and outplays anything else, but apparently these family members don?t look as Euro-Cute on TV so they were passed over. The Latin Grammy doesn?t garner the same respect as a real Grammy. It?s like a designer knock-off, or a high school GED.

The Latin Emmy stacks up to be the same kind of side show hustle, and could be called an ?Emma?, only to be awarded for roles as Maid, Busboy, Gangster, Hooker, and guest shots on Cops. There is little doubt Sabado Gigante is slated to run the table every year.

ATAS President Todd Leavitt said in response to Price, ?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. While NATAS was busy hiring lawyers, ATAS has been asking the community and Spanish language broadcasters. ATAS are meeting with members of the Hispanic Congressional Caucus to hear their thoughts. Some Hispanics with whom ATAS has discussed the new trophy have objected to the name. Others hate the whole idea.

Although wise in garnering community input, Leavitt?s biggest problem was asking ?Hispanics? what they thought in the first place. He should be asking ?Latinos.?

Film producer, member of National Latino Media Council and National Association of Latino Independent Producers, Montezuma Esparza summed it up quite nicely. ?Would the academy suggest a separate African American Emmy that would be carried on BET??

Esteban Torres chairman of the National Latino Media Council is on record as having a ?huge problem? with the name Latin Emmy. ?This title is a misnomer and prejudicial for our American Latino English-language performers, writers, directors and technical people because it doesn?t involve them.?

Leavitt said there are lots of unsettled issues whether the Latin Emmy would recognize Hispanic TV programming telecast but not produced in the US.

I have news for Leavitt: there are no real nationally produced Hispanic programming to speak of. The Spanish language ?stuff? produced here is programmed by foreign nationals. This includes for the most part Spanish radio as well. American-born Latinos are usually systematically excluded from Spanish speaking media management positions.

This whole issue is going to arbitration court, but the courts should not make the decision on this one. The Latino community needs to start a national dialogue on this issue and direct the academy as to what our level of participation in network television should be.

We don?t need patronizing knock-off awards shows. We need a parity representation of Latino actors, irectors, writers, and producers in the American TV industry.

Anything less is unacceptable.

About Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos is a national columnist.

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