Academy promises sweeping reforms in diversity row

LOS ANGELES (AFP) – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Friday announced sweeping reforms designed to help diversify its membership in the face of a swirling controversy over the all-white list of actors nominated for this year’s Oscars.

The Academy’s board is seeking to double the number of women members by 2020 and plans to launch an global effort to “recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity,” it said.

“These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition,” Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in a statement.

The changes were approved in a unanimous vote by the Academy’s board of governors on Thursday night, it said.

To increase diversity immediately, the Academy said it would establish three new governor seats that will be nominated by the president for three-year terms and confirmed by the board.

For a second year in a row, Academy members nominated only white actors for the 20 slots for Oscars, causing an outcry.

Acclaimed director Spike Lee, actor Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith all announced they would stay away from this year’s ceremony on Feb 28.

The Academy has some 6,000 members, all of whom work in the film industry and are elected by their peers for life.

According to a 2012 study by the Los Angeles Times, nearly 94 per cent of the Academy voters are white and most of them are male.