The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) released its 2020-2021 Transparency Report, a document that aims to provide context, insight, and visibility into submission, judging, and dispute adjudication and resolution processes for the Daytime, News & Documentary, and Sports Emmy Award competitions.
NATAS first released a transparency report in 2019, sparked by a 2018 Daytime Emmy awards disaster that saw the organization fail to vet submissions in accordance with its own rules and resulted in the revocation of Patrika Darbo’s Daytime Emmy win for “The Bay,” due to ineligibility.
Though the last report was published in 2019, it appears that NATAS intends to continue distribution of its studies on an annual basis, doubling up this year in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. That said, the results of the latest report should reflect the actions taken in light of the lessons learned from 2019. Some of those actions include newly implemented rules seen as adaptive to the constantly changing television landscape, as well as automated rules tie-breaking.
The latest report is expansive and includes information on the recent adoption of algorithms supervised by third-party auditors. The intent of said algorithms is to remove the opportunity for arbitrary subjectivity with regards to judging scores, behavioral patterns, and ballots for outliers that might suggest vote coordination, collusion, or overall manipulation.
Because of the above changes, NATAS feels confident that most category disputes are resolvable by the auditor, with a mathematically informed resolution.
Further, this year’s report includes the results of the organization’s first-ever demographic survey of NATAS judges, allowing insight into what kind of representation can be seen on judging panels and how it correlates — or contrasts — with the creators whose efforts they were tasked with evaluating. According to NATAS, just under 2/3 of judges participated in the survey, and the information gleaned from the survey will better equip NATAS to evaluate benchmarks by which it can advance diversity, equity, and inclusion with regards to its pool of judges.
NATAS willingness to engage and reveal its own process of checks and balances is a positive development in an industry increasingly devoted to privatized information and corporate subterfuge. While streamers continue to be intentionally cagey releasing viewing numbers and other awards bodies, specifically the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, tarnished by accusations of nefarious and discriminatory practices behind closed doors, a large-scale organization laying all of its cards on the table seems near-miraculous.
“With this report, NATAS is proud to be setting what we hope will become widely adopted benchmarks for transparency across all major awards competitions,” said Adam Sharp, President and CEO, NATAS. “As Emmy submissions have increased the demands on our judges, we felt it was vital to be open with the changes we have adopted to ensure continued, equitable treatment for all submissions.”
With regards to the judges surveyed, 86 percent of participating judges allowed results to be personally-identifiable and considered in the process of forming equitable judging panels, with participation highest amongst News & Doc with 77 percent, Daytime with 55 percent, and Sports with 50 percent.
Demographic questions directed at judges included:
To dig into the report itself is to se a masterwork of clarity and accountability. The document outlines points of conflict and how said conflict was resolved and what in particular was at stake with regards to each decision. It simplifies the complex data analysis often required to make sense of voting science and lays out the issues in question with precision.
Just as a corporation is responsible to its shareholders and a politician to its constituents, awards bodies must embrace that same sense of accountability with its members and audiences. It might feel as though NATAS has set a high bar for other organizations to meet, but transparency should be the floor, not the ceiling.