Twitter and the Emmys Down Under

Adam Sharp, Interim CEO of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and former Head of News, Government & Elections at Twitter, joins Sarah Harris and Angela Bishop on Studio 10 to talk about the Emmy Awards, social media and politics. 

Transcript

Sarah Harris

Our next guest, Adam Sharp, was a Washington insider working in the US Senate when social media giant Twitter hired him in 2010. Twitter's goal was to one day have the President of the United States speaking directly to the people through Twitter. That has happened, and nowadays, you'll see Adam at Emmy award galas, because he's become the Interim President of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He's had a fascinating career with heaps more to come, and he joins us now from New York.

Sarah Harris

Adam, welcome. Great to see you.

Adam Sharp

Great to see you. Good morning. Thank you for having me.

Sarah Harris

Our pleasure. Got to start with Twitter first, if you don't mind. So you're to blame for Donald Trump and his tweets.

Adam Sharp

(laughs) Well I was part of a large team, I guess, that can be to blame there, but I think one of the amazing things that Twitter has done is to bring politics closer to the people, and to allow people to hear directly from their elected leaders, and to give Feedback to them.

Adam Sharp

We were talking just before going on the air how we saw some of this in Australian politics in recent years. Certainly, Malcolm Turnbull was very active on social media. We saw back when Julia Guillard was in office, and her spill, you could see when she gave the famous blue tie speech Twitter reaction moving in real time, and sort of giving that earlier indication that perhaps a spill was on its way.

Sarah Harris

Do you think it's always a good thing that the President has unfettered access to people and is able to espouse his views without really even thinking often at 3:00 in the morning?

Adam Sharp

Well, I think if you separate the concept from the individual, and if we ... Obviously, there are a lot of supporters for Donald Trump in the United States. There are a lot of people who oppose President Trump in the United States. But just conceptually, that an elected official being directly accountable to the electorate and speaking their mind directly to the electorate, not through the filters of spokespeople and so on, I think, is a very good thing. Now, certainly, the President from time to time would benefit from some editing, I think, to achieve his own political aims, but I'll leave that for someone else to interpret.

Angela Bishop

Adam, I was going to ask you how you get more Twitter followers, but then I discovered I've got more than you do. But what is the secret?

Adam Sharp

Well, being on television is a good start, but I think the key really is to be yourself, and to be engaging. If you are a television host, if you own a small business, and you're using Twitter to build an audience, don't make it just about your work and about your business. Share your personality. Share your interests. Share what makes you laugh, because people want to see that there's another real human being at the other end of that line.

Adam Sharp

And I think that's one reason, to our previous question, why President Trump has been so successful ... Because there is that feeling of authenticity, that you are hearing from the individual and not some packaged PR machine.

Angela Bishop

What about the negativity that is there with Twitter? The feeling that-

Sarah Harris

The trolls.

Angela Bishop

The trolls, that some people call it a sewer. What do you say about that?

Adam Sharp

Well, the company has, in recent weeks, taken a number of steps, and are continuing to take steps to improve what they call the health of conversation on the platform. You know, in the early days of Twitter, there was this concept that free speech ruled the day. That everyone should have an equal voice, and in fact, that's what gave Twitter much of its influence in public affairs because you saw things like the Arab spring, and the Me Too movement really take flight because there was not a lot of moderation of speech.

Adam Sharp

Now, I think the company has started to realize, though, that having that unfettered speech may actually wind up silencing people because they are afraid to speak their views because they will get abused, or harassed on the platform. So I know there are officials of the company that have been in Australia speaking to your elected officials on ways to mitigate that after some incidents down there as they have here in the US, and are continuing to work to improve those elements of the platform.

Angela Bishop

Adam, I'm going to switch to your Emmys role, and you presidency there. Now, tell me. I've lucky enough to have been to the daytime Emmys a few times, and the Bold and the Beautiful had, I think, 18 nominations this year. We're big fans of that show here in Australia. How about you?

Adam Sharp

Yes, well, I grew up with a grandmother in Sweden who was obsessed with Bold and the Beautiful, and there it was called Glamour. And every time I would call her, she'd ask me how I was doing, how's the weather, and how is Ridge doing? So it's been a bit of my life for years.

Angela Bishop

And the four major soaps are pleading for some changes to the way the daytime Emmys are done. Have you got an update on that?

Adam Sharp

Well, the daytime soaps and some others in the community did raise questions about how we actually run the competition. We judge daytime Emmys differently than our sister academy judges the primetime Emmys, for example, and some members of the daytime community wanted us to reconsider that. We have commissioned an independent law firm to actually look at our procedures and let us know if we are creating a competition that is as fair as it can possibly be, and as welcoming to new creators in the daytime space as we can possibly be. And we expect to get their findings back in the next month or so.

Angela Bishop

Well, Adam, you should come to our Logies one day. And, in fact, we should have a daytime Logies.

Sarah Harris

Oh, that's a good idea! Can you make that happen?

Adam Sharp

[inaudible 00:06:18], we'd love to have you in Pasadena in the spring when we do next year's daytime Emmy awards.

Sarah Harris

All right. We are getting our frocks ready. Adam Sharp in New York. Thank you so much for joining us. Great seeing you.

Adam Sharp

Thank you.