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Academy Unveils Dramatic Changes to Increase Diversity of Oscars Voters

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A general view of Oscar Statuettes backstage during the 87th Annual Academy Awards at Dolby Theatre on Feb. 22, 2015 in Hollywood, California.  

The Academy unveiled on Friday several dramatic changes in its structure and Oscars voting regulations in an effort to promote diversity. Its goal, the Academy said, is to double the number of women and diverse members of the Academy by 2020.

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The Academy is adding three new seats to its 51-person board of governors. Rather than represent existing branches, the members chosen to fill those seats will be nominated by the president for three-year terms and then confirmed by the board. The Academy also said it will take immediate action to increase diversity by adding new members who are not on the board of governors to its executive and board committees, where decisions about membership and governance are made in the hopes of allowing new members to have a more active role in Academy decision-making.

The organization is also instituting new rules affecting voting status: Each new member's voting status will last ten years, and will then 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. The same standards will be applied retroactively to current members. Those who do not qualify for active status will be moved to emeritus status and, while they will enjoy other membership privileges, will not be able to vote. None of those changes yet will affect voting for this year's Oscars.

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In an effort to recruit new members, the Academy will continue with its traditional process in which current members sponsor new members, but will also launch what it is calling "an ambitious, global campaign to identify and recruit qualified new members who represent greater diversity.

“The Academy is going to lead and not wait for the industry to catch up,” read a statement from Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs. “These new measures regarding governance and voting will have an immediate impact and begin the process of significantly changing our membership composition.”

The changes were approved unanimously by the board of governors, the Academy said in announcing the dramatic moves. They were developed by Boone Isaacs and the board's membership and administration committee, chaired by Phil Robertson, who represents the writers branch on the board of governors.

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This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.