After a firestorm of criticism when the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts was forced to combine the TV comedy and light entertainment series categories, next year’s awards will restore the status quo.

AACTA today called for entries to 20 TV categories for the 4th annual awards to be presented in Sydney in late January.

Comedy and light entertainment get their own categories, which AACTA said, follows “extensive consultation with the Australian comedy community.”

Last year AFI/ AACTA CEO Damian Trewhella blamed the decision to combine and reduce the number of TV awards on a lack of funds, describing it as a “rationalisation against our best wishes.”

This week he told IF, “Incrementally we’re in a better place financially than we were 12 months ago. We are making some progress with various partnerships, which we will announce soon. It’s going in the right direction.”

Trewhella also credits the improving finances to revenues from the burgeoning number of members’ events in Sydney and Melbourne, and a rise in membership.

Actor Josh Lawson was among the most vocal critics of the combining of the categories.  This week he said, "Great to see AACTA has separated comedy and light entertainment for next year's awards. But let's not forget that comedy still only has a quarter of the acting awards that drama has."

In a policy change from previous years, membership is now a requirement for entry. A minimum of five candidates listed on the entry form must be AACTA members. If there are fewer than five, all must be AACTA members.

Trewhella said, “The innovation and depth of our television screen industries has never been stronger, kicking off in February when over 5 million viewers tuned into local Australian drama, Seven’s INXS Never Tear Us Apart (2.8 million viewers), Nine’s Schapelle (1.9 million) and the premiere of ABC1’s third season of Rake (942,000), and reality television is continuing its meteoric rise.”

The entry fee is unchanged at $1,350 and the deadline for entries and materials is Friday August 8.

The competition rules have been changed to spell out the eligibility for executive producers. That’s now defined as “any person named as executive producer(s) of the production if that person has directly participated in a majority of decisions concerning a majority of the producing functions for the production."

Entries for feature films close this Friday. The TV categories are:

• Best Television Drama Series
• Best Telefeature or Mini Series
• Best Children’s Television Series
• Best Television Comedy Series
• Best Light Entertainment Television Series
• Best Reality Television Series
• Best Direction in a Television Drama or Comedy
• Best Direction in a Television Light Entertainment or Reality Series
• Best Screenplay in Television
• Best Cinematography in Television
• Best Editing in Television
• Best Sound in Television
• Best Original Music Score in Television
• Best Production Design in Television
• Best Costume Design in Television
• Best Lead Actor in a Television Drama
• Best Lead Actress in a Television Drama
• Best Guest or Supporting Actor in a Television Drama
• Best Guest or Supporting Actress in a Television Drama
• Best Performance in a Television Comedy

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