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Legal Wrangling Makes Tech Awards 'Special’

1/11/2008 7:00 PM Eastern

Lawyers spoiled most of the fun at the 59th Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards.

The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences last week presented Tech Emmys in six categories but — because of a legal dispute with the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, which awards the Primetime Emmys — it gave only “special awards” in 13 advanced media and gaming categories.

“I didn’t want to end up in the clink,” NATAS CEO Peter Price said in opening remarks here Monday at the Venetian hotel. “So we’ll be giving special recognition to those who are under the gun in this matter.”

ATAS and NATAS have been feuding over the right to bestow Emmy awards in broadband-related categories. The two groups split in 1977, and under the terms of the separation, neither is allowed to create new Emmy Awards without the agreement of the other organization.

Last month, an arbitration panel ruled that neither group may award new Emmys based on distribution platform or for non-television devices such as cellphones. ATAS subsequently demanded that NATAS cancel the Tech Emmy awards altogether.

Price last week said NATAS will fight for the right to award Emmys in the advanced media and gaming categories, and would retroactively give Emmys to the winners if the organization prevailed. The dispute is currently in arbitration.

Winners in the six “classic” Emmy categories, which received the familiar gold-winged statuettes, included Time Warner Cable, Scientific Atlanta and Tandberg Television for the operator’s video-on-demand service; CNN, for an Internet Protocol-based digital newsgathering system; and AT&T for, ironically, coaxial cable technology.

The non-Emmy award winners, which included Showtime Networks, MTV, Bravo and BigBand Networks, received engraved crystal pillars.

Award presenters at the ceremony, timed to coincide with the Consumer Electronics Show, included Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, and astronaut Buzz Aldrin, the second man to set foot on the moon.

The 77-year-old Aldrin gave an award for best use of on-demand technology in a broadband PC application to Major League Baseball and Ensequence for MLB.TV Mosaic. As he paused to try to read the script on the podium in front of him, he chided the crowd: “You’re great technologists and engineers, but you don’t have TelePrompTers.”


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