Excellence in TV would be recognised in a new batch of Australian awards – but funding looms as a major issue.  
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18 Jan 2013 - 2:15 PM  UPDATED 18 Jan 2013 - 2:15 PM

Last December the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts launched a campaign to create 10 new awards, mostly in TV categories, and called on the industry and public to respond online.

The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive but it's a moot point as to when the new gongs, which would align the Australian awards with the Emmys, Oscars and BAFTAs, will be instituted.

Expanding from the current 41 awards would require sizable funding, which is problematic at a time when corporate sponsorship for the AACTA Awards has shrunk, including the loss of last year's major sponsor Samsung. And there would be logistical challenges because there is no peer assessment structure for most of the proposed awards, for example, a gong for TV editing.

“The response to our campaign for additional awards has been outstanding,” AACTA/Australian Film Institute chief executive Damian Trewhella tells SBS Film. “To date our findings show that the industry is completely supportive of the need to recognise screen craft excellence beyond the 41 awards which we currently bestow.

“Uniting the industry across screen crafts and sectors is more critical than ever, particularly in light of the uncertain economic climate in which we operate. We will analyse our campaign survey results after the upcoming 2nd AACTA Awards and report back to the industry then.”

The AFI established the Academy in August 2011 following a year-long review and industry consultation. The awards will be presented on January 30 at the Star casino's new Event Centre in Sydney, broadcast on Network Ten and hosted by actor, performer and musician Hugh Sheridan.

The proposed new gongs would honour excellence in TV cinematography, editing, sound, original music score, production design and costume. Achievements in hair and make-up design across film and TV would be recognised for the first time, and there would be new awards for screen content innovation and best original music score in a documentary.

“We would like to introduce new awards but that would entail substantial funding,” says Trewhella. “Commercial sponsorship has almost evaporated and I don't see that expanding in the next cycle. We have to work with the industry on these new categories. A gradual implantation is possible.”

The Australian Directors Guild has objected to the nomination of Michael McKay, the executive producer of The Amazing Race Australia, against three drama directors in the best direction in TV category.

“We will continue to protest this move and will be meeting with the other guilds to discuss the whole AACTA category set up,” says ADG executive director Kingston Anderson. “The ADG Awards separately recognise directors in drama and reality. So do the BAFTAs and Emmys but not the AACTAs.

“It is not possible to judge a drama director's work against that of a reality director. They are completely different types of directing. How do you judge the work of a drama director against the work of a reality director? If this can be done then surely we do not need separate categories for different shows. Why don't we just have one category for best TV show?”

Says Trewhella: “We have responded to Kingston Anderson's point by saying that we too would like to see additional awards to further separate out and recognise screen craft excellence in Australia.”