Thefocus of the Australian Film Institute (AFI) will remain its annual awards,says new general manager Geoffrey Williams, but he envisages taking on more ofan advocacy role for industry in future.

The importance of the 48-year-old awards was unassailable,he told, and their integrity had to be protected.Getting the professional members more involved in voting is one priority, as isbetter servicing the 10,000 or so members.

"It might sound like heresy to say it but they are almostintrinsically boring for everyone except the winner," said Williams, whenquestioned about his plans for the ceremony. "It is impossible to pleaseeveryone but we have to look past that and focus on the importance of awardingand acknowledging excellence in Australian filmmaking."

The awards are opportunity to interface with the public andpromote Australian film and television, he said. As a neutral organisation, andwith the support of the guilds and unions, the AFI could also play an advocacyrole with the public and with government.

Williams is keen to address the "false perceptions" that theAFI is "in trouble". An inward focus had been necessary to address its direfinancial position but he stressed he has inherited a healthy organisation.

Williams' has had past roles in culture and artsadministration at Sydney's Tilbury Hotel, the City of Sydney, the Sydney 2002Gay Games, and at writer-driven events.

The former general manager, Felicity Cockram, resigned earlythis year. In recent years the AFI has dropped its distribution and researchactivities and shrunk to a staff of seven. The awards are expected to be inMelbourne in November. They now have competition in the form of the IF Awards.