I’m bullish about the future of television for many reasons, but perhaps the greatest reason for optimism is the steady influx of talented young people into our industry.
For many of them — especially those from underrepresented communities — the only barrier to making their mark is lack of opportunity. Our philanthropic arm, the Television Academy Foundation, is dedicated to reversing that trend through its education and professional development programs.
Renowned for its internship program, College Television Awards and other initiatives, the Foundation is one of the most sought-after steppingstones on the road to a career in television. Its alumni include established writers, producers, directors, craftspeople and executives — many of them Emmy winners.
Last year, when Covid-19 made in-person internships unworkable, the Foundation pivoted and established a fellowship track, placing dozens of students in remote positions with leading companies. In addition, the Star Trek Command Training Program, presented in conjunction with CBS Studios, immersed participants in the production process of the Star Trek universe.
The Foundation recently expanded its offerings with new internships in unscripted TV, made possible by five donors well known in the genre: Jonathan Murray of Bunim/Murray Productions; Jim Berger of High Noon Entertainment; Rasha and Stephanie Drachkovitch of 44 Blue Productions and Cris Abrego of Banijay and Endemol Shine Holdings (Abrego is also chair of the Academy Foundation).
Thanks to them, L.A.–area college students who are committed to promoting the voices of underrepresented communities will now have the opportunity to work in reality television and learn the skills necessary for success.
In another inspired pivot, the College Television Awards was reimagined this year as the College Television Summit. Presented May 3–5, this virtual summit offered eligible students — free of charge — an insider’s guide to a career in television.
The agenda included presentations by top executives and Emmy-winning show creators, as well as networking opportunities, a résumé-building seminar and more. Look for coverage of this event on TelevisionAcademy.com and in a future issue of emmy.
Another development on the education front is the Foundation’s Friends and Alumni Network, or FAN. Funded in part by a grant from the Irvine Foundation, this platform provides a forum for former interns, fellows, College Television Award participants and other alumni to stay connected, engage in mentorship and more.
In addition to these and other important programs — like the annual Faculty Seminar, open to professors of TV and media studies from colleges around the country — the Foundation reaches beyond the industry via The Power of TV, a series of public panels spotlighting television’s impact on social change.
Within the Foundation leadership, Cris Abrego recently appointed two new members to the board to help further its work creating opportunities for students with diverse backgrounds: Eva Longoria, actress, director and CEO of UnbeliEVAble Entertainment, and Ivana Kirkbride, global director of content strategy and programming at Facebook.
Finally, while continuing to pave the way for the next generation, the Foundation honors our past with The Interviews: An Oral History of Television. This compilation of more than 900 in-depth videotaped conversations with TV legends preserves our rich backstory as a point of reference for the chapters — make that episodes — yet to be written in the ongoing narrative of our medium.
Chairman and CEO, Television Academy