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Helga Stephenson, left, with Rick Mercer at a Canadian Film Centre gala in 2008.

After years of being lobbied by the entertainment industry to merge the Genie and Gemini awards, the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television announced yesterday it will combine the two into one gala event that will air next March.

"It's all about creating a better show that commands attention," says ACCT chief executive Helga Stephenson. "It's about making a show that reflects the national and international success of the indigenous film and television sectors. We have this huge industry that needs a bigger platform to showcase our talent," adds Stephenson, who had been the academy's interim CEO before taking on the job full-time on Tuesday.

Stephenson said combining the Genies (which recognizes the best in English- and French-Canadian film) and the Geminis (the television equivalent) will also allow the ACCT to develop additional programs to better support the two genres. "These two awards shows were six months apart, so every time you were done with one, you immediately moved onto the next one. This will give us more time to develop new programs and to build our brand."

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In recent years, both the Genies and the Geminis have struggled to drum up ratings. Marty Katz, ACCT chair, said the consolidation should "shine a bigger spotlight on our awards, and in terms of real estate, two hours on prime time on Sunday night is a terrific slot to bring audiences to, and should be stronger for us than an hour midweek." The new show will air March 3, 2013, on CBC Television.

No decision has yet been made regarding a new name or trophy for the event. However, the ACCT confirmed that shows eligible for the 2012 Geminis will be part of the future awards program.

Categories in the consolidated awards will remain unchanged, with 24 categories for film and 94 categories for television and digital projects.

In February, the academy changed the rules for big-budget co-productions (like The Tudors and The Borgias), placing them in a separate category for best international drama. Previously, these shows were lumped in with smaller-budget dramas such as Flashpoint and Republic of Doyle, diminishing the smaller shows' chances of taking home a top TV prize.

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