Academy Awards Changes Rules Amidst Burgeoning #OscarsSoWhite Backlash – How Will It Introduce More Diversity?

When Academy Awards changes rules amidst rapidly rising backlash about lack of diversity, it indicates the power of social media. The #OscarsSoWhite hashtag that has been doing furious rounds of the internet could be attributed to accelerating the indirect admittance of the organizers that the awards do seem racially biased towards the fairer skin.

Under the rising controversy about the lack of diversity among Oscar nominees, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has decided to enact new rules that have been seemingly designed to include more people of color among its membership. The committee that oversees the Academy Awards swiftly voted to approve changes. The changes are expected to double the number of women and people of color in its membership by 2020. Announcing the changes by saying “We need to step this up,” president Cheryl Boone Isaacs added the academy will immediately diversify its leadership by adding three new seats to its board of governors, reported The Daily Croton.

A statement from the Academy Awards said that the board of governors had unanimously approved a series of changes to “make the Academy’s membership, its governing bodies, and its voting members significantly more diverse.”

During a closed-door meeting on Tuesday, the academy’s 51-member Board of Governors had discussed expanding the number of films in the best picture category to 10 every year and increasing the number of acting nominees in each category, reported Chicago Tribune. Moreover, to increase diversity, the Academy will add new members, who are not Governors, to its executive and board committees where key decisions about membership and governance are made, reported Bills Insider.

Interestingly, starting later this year, voting rights of a member will last for a decade and will only be renewed if that member has been an active contributing member to the motion picture industry. Incidentally, the Academy hasn’t been forthcoming about the exact number of female or minority members that it would need to enlist to meet its goal of infusing appropriate amount of diversity. Moreover, it is not clear how many older members could lose their influential voting privileges.

It is amply clear that the Academy Awards is quite perturbed about the rising controversy about an all-white nomination. The Academy’s decision to take up the issue just weeks before its telecast, shows how deeply concerned the organization is about the effect of the controversy. Usually, any changes that the Academy is mulling, are announced long after the telecast. However, this year’s debate about the lack of diversity has sparked an uproar that’s a little too big to be taken lightly and ignored. At stake is not just the image, but also the TV ratings. If negatively impacted, they could seriously hurt future sales of TV rights. Needless to mention, the Academy earns handsomely through sales of broadcasting rights.

Many actors, directors and others have openly complained about the severe lack of diversity in the Academy Awards. Quite a few, have confirmed they will skip this year’s Oscars. Some of the notable personalities, who will be sitting at home, are Will and Jada Smith, Spike Lee, Idris Elba, and others.

Despite the debate, many actors and directors have defended the predominately white nominations for this year’s Oscars.

Besides the #OscarsSoWhite, another hashtag that has been doing the rounds of social media platform is #AllWhiteOscars. While the issue has gained momentum, the awards body has been in the midst of a push for more diversity for the last three years. The Academy has been inviting larger and demographically broader groups to join its 6,261 voting members. However the sheer size of the academy and the fact that quite a few senior members have lifetime tenure, fundamental changes could be seen in a gradual manner.

[Photo by Joe Klamar/Getty Images]

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