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Oscars Organisers Move To Diversify Voting Board

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The organisers of the Oscars said on Wednesday that they have invited almost 700 new members to the movie award's voting board, with the focus being placed on female and minority talent. The move comes after the academy received a strong backlash over a lack of diversity on its voting board.

Among the 683 potential new members who have been invited are actors Idris Elba, America Ferrera, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Eva Mendes and this year's Best Actress Oscar winner Brie Larson, the academy said in a statement.

Forty-six per cent of those invited are females, while 41 per cent are people of colour aged 24 to 91, said the organisation, whose members include directors, producers, cinematographers and composers.  

"This class continues our long-term commitment to welcoming extraordinary talent reflective of those working in film today," Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs said in the statement.

"We encourage the larger creative community to open its doors wider, and create opportunities for anyone interested in working in this incredible and storied industry."

A combination photo of director Spike Lee (L) and actor Jada Pinkett Smith (R). Both celebrities boycotted the Oscars in 2016 due to a lack of diversity among nominees.

Only white actors were nominated in acting categories for two years in a row, which sparked criticism on social media under the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. Oscars host Chris Rock famously provided commentary on the lack of diversity in the academy during the awards show this year, which was boycotted by director Spike Lee and actor Jada Pinkett Smith.

The academy mainly consists of white, older males in the film industry, and this has long been seen as a barrier to racial and gender equality at the Oscars.

In a bid to resolve this matter, the organisation has announced an affirmative action program with the aim of doubling female and minority membership by 2020. This plans to increase the number of female members in the academy to 27 per cent this year from 25 per cent last year, while the number of coloured people on the voting body will rise to 11 per cent, up from 8 per cent in 2015.  

If all of the 683 invitees join the board, the academy would have a total of 7,789 members, it added.

Under new membership rules, the academy has stripped some older members of voting privileges in a move aimed at diversification.  

Lifetime voting rights would only be given to academy members who remain active in the film industry for over three 10-year terms, or have won or been nominated for an Oscar.

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