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In a statement released to the media, the Academy made it clear that it’s implementing changes to its policies to tighten up restrictions on who votes for the Academy Awards, as well as broaden its reach by adding more diversity to its Board of Governors. While admitting that these changes “will not affect voting for this year’s Oscars,” the Academy addressed the voting status of current members, saying:
Beginning later this year, each new member’s voting status will last 10 years, and will be renewed if that new member has been active in motion pictures during that decade. In addition, members will receive lifetime voting rights after three ten-year terms; or if they have won or been nominated for an Academy Award. We will apply these same standards retroactively to current members.
Members of the Academy who have been inactive will be moved to an emeritus status. Those members will enjoy “all privileges of membership, except voting.” In a follow up to that statement, the Academy claims that it will launch “an ambitious, global campaign” to find potential new members who “represent greater diversity” so as to increase their ranks in the Academy numbers.
Not enough? Later in the release, the Academy says it will take strides to increase diversity in its leadership ranks, explaining:
The Academy will establish three new governor seats that will be nominated by the President for three-year terms and confirmed by the Board. The Academy will also take immediate action to increase diversity by adding new members who are not Governors to its executive and board committees where key decisions about membership and governance are made.
Trying to make it clear that these are not reactionary movements, Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs stated:
The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up. These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.
Reaction online wasn’t quite as favorable. Awards pundit David Poland weighed in:
The Academy makes an empty gesture, going after the least powerful members of the group with no reason to believe this changes anything— David Poland (@DavidPoland) January 22, 2016
The Academy is really good at publicity… really horrible at dong anything that makes a difference.— David Poland (@DavidPoland) January 22, 2016
Is he right? We will have to wait and see. As the Academy notes, this changes nothing about the ceremony the Academy is about to host. (And thank God Chris Rock is this year’s host, because the Academy keeps handing this brilliant comedic mind vaults of potential material.) But it’s a step that suggests the Academy wants to see major changes in its policies in the coming years. We’ll see how they affect the movies honored by the Academy going forward.