Call to Diversify Oscars Continues

February 1, 2016

[adrees latif/reuters/corbis]
[adrees latif/reuters/corbis]

After facing widespread criticism for nominating only white actors the past two years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that it aims to double the number of women and diverse members by 2020.

Of the Academy’s 6,200 actors, directors, producers and executives, 77 percent are male, according to a 2012 Los Angeles Times study.  And as Fortune reports, 2 percent of the members are African-American, 2 percent are Hispanic and 94 percent are white. The board consists of 51 members — 17 of which are women. Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the president of the Academy, is the only African-American.    

“We’ve been a more than predominantly white institution for a long time,” Boone Isaacs told the Los Angeles Times on Jan. 22. “We thought, we’ve got to change this and reflect the community much better.”

Moving forward, a potential amendment would see the Academy returning to the 2010 and 2011 format of having 10 best-picture nominees, according to The New York Times. Another option is widening the acting categories to eight or 10 nominees to increase the likelihood of a more diverse field.

The hashtag #OscarsStillSoWhite began trending as a follow-up to last year’s #OscarsSoWhite, and actors such as Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith plan to boycott the awards ceremony on Feb. 28.

Despite the criticism, there are few financial repercussions expected, the Los Angeles Times reported on Jan. 21. ABC had sold nearly all of its commercial time before the announcement of the nominees on Jan. 14 and, so far, none of the advertisers have pulled out of the upcoming broadcast in light of the controversy.

In fact, some industry experts predict that the backlash could boost ratings, as many viewers will likely tune in to see how host Chris Rock tackles the subject. About 37 million people watched last year’s show.  

Renée Ruggeri
Renée Ruggeri is the editorial assistant for PRSA’s publications. Originally from Warwick, N.Y., she has bachelor’s degrees in English and journalism from the University of Richmond and a certificate in publishing from New York University.

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