Broadcast Film Critics Form TV Organization, Plan Awards Show

Critics Choice Television Awards will precede Emmys, following the model of the Critics Choice Movie Awards

Adding a new show to the Emmy calendar the way it did to the Oscar season a decade and a half ago, the Broadcast Film Critics Association has announced the formation of a parallel organization, the Broadcast Television Journalists Association, and the creation of the Critics Choice Television Awards.

The awards will take place at a lunch on June 20 at the Beverly Hills Hotel, four days before Emmy nominating ballots are due and a little less than three months before the Emmy show.

Critics Choice Movie AwardThe purpose of the new show, BFCA president and BTJA acting president Joey Berlin told TheWrap, is not to challenge the Emmys, but to help focus the attention of Emmy voters on the shows and performances the critics like best.

"I think it's right and proper that the most prestigious awards in the entertainment fields are the ones that are given out by the people doing the work: the Emmys, Oscars, Tonys, Grammys," he said.

"But the critics can play an important function too, in not only bringing the best work to the attention of the public, but also helping out those poor Emmy voters who have to sift through a virtually infinite number of programs."

The awards will follow the model of the Critics Choice Movie Awards, which generally take place just before the Golden Globes and are usually an accurate predictor of Academy Award nominees and winners.

But while the association has modeled CCMA categories as closely as possible on Oscar categories, Berlin says they will not follow suit for the television awards, given the dozens of categories handed out at the Emmys.

"I think we'l have 16 or 17 categories," he said. "We're not going to get into directing or writing or other categories — we'll be sticking with the ones we think the public is most interested in, the awards for acting and for dramas and comedies and reality shows."

In the top drama, comedy and reality categories, he added, the CCTA will likely have 10 nominees, as does the CCMA Best Picture category. Another key award that may have 10 nominees, he added, will be for the most promising new show, based on advance screeners that will be furnished to voters.

While the Critics Choice Movie Awards are televised by VH1, the inaugural TV awards will not be televised. Berlin says he hopes to have a TV deal in place within a few years. "We're ready when anybody else is ready," he said, "but we don't expect any broadcaster to step up and foot the bill this year."

The BTJA came about, said Berlin, when BFCA members who also cover television complained to him about getting second-class treatment at events like the annual TCA presentations, which they charged were biased toward print media over broadcast and online journalists.

"The idea was to create an organization that would give the broadcast television writers more clout," he said. "And it clicked with me that the best thing you can do to create clout for journalists is to have them voting on awards."

The BFCA first revealed plans for the organization in a March 23 email to its members, which said that that the Broadcast Television Journalists Association "intends to do for electronic television journalists what BFCA has done for electronic film critics – give them a collective voice to speak to networks and channels."

"[C]ritics and entertainment journalists provide an important service when we precede the Emmy or Oscar voting with our picks," it read. "After all, … we are the ones who monitor the works all year long and are best situated to consider their relative merits during 'awards season.'"

Berlin said that he expects to reveal the complete category lineup, the voting timetable and the membership roster in about two weeks. The BTJA is currently working on voting procedures, which he said will necessarily involve nominating committees to sift through the huge number of eligible shows.

"Maybe it's not right to say that there is a need  for this kind of show," said Berlin, "but there certainly an opportunity exists for critics to play a real role in television awards."

Over the past few years, the Critics Choice Movie Awards winners have matched Academy Award winners more accurately than almost any other awards show. Earlier this year, the CCMAs honored "The Social Network" and its director David Fincher rather than "The King's Speech" and Tom Hooper, but matched all the acting awards; last year, it forecast the Academy's choices in Picture, Director and all four acting races, though its Best Actress race resulted in a tie between Oscar winner Sandra Bullock and nominee Meryl Streep.  

The BFCA, which was formed 15 years ago, now consists of more than 280 members. It began recruiting members for BJTA (which its email said is pronounced "betcha") a few months ago, and in recent weeks has met with television networks to enlist support for the new organization and awards — with, Berlin said, positive results.