Oscars shake-up as Academy tackles racial inequality with new rules

The Oscars will undergo a major shake-up to its rules in a bid to tackle social inequalities. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced new criteria to ensure the representation of underrepresented racial or ethnic groups, women, LGBTQ+ people, and those with cognitive or physical disabilities, or are deaf or hard of hearing.

The move follows consistent criticism of The Oscars for a lack of diversity in its nominees, particularly around the issue of race, with #OscarsSoWhite consistently trending around the ceremony. The statement confirming the changes reads: “The standards are designed to encourage equitable representation on and off-screen to better reflect the diversity of the movie-going audience.”

The new template was inspired by the British Film Institute (BFI) Diversity Standards used for certain funding eligibility in the UK and eligibility in some categories of the BAFTAs, however, these have been adapted for the Oscars. Academy President David Rubin and Academy CEO Dawn Hudson said: “The aperture must widen to reflect our diverse global population in both the creation of motion pictures and in the audiences who connect with them.

“The Academy is committed to playing a vital role in helping make this a reality. We believe these inclusion standards will be a catalyst for long-lasting, essential change in our industry.”

The new criteria will see four “standards” applied to films which will require a degree of diversity and representation for the films to eligible. For a film to eligible for Best Picture award then a film must meet two of the standards, starting with the 96th Oscars in 2024. The first standard is focused on on-screen representation in cast, themes and narrative.

One of the lead or supporting characters must be played by an underrepresented racial or ethnic group, or “at least 30% of all actors in secondary and more minor roles” must be from these groups, be women, LGBTQ+ or have cognitive or physical disabilities, or else are deaf or hard of hearing. Alternatively, the themes or narratives must centre on one of these groups.

The second standard focuses on the diversity of the creative leadership and project teams, which must also have a degree of diversity, or have the overall composition of the crew be 30 per cent made up from under-represented groups.

The third standard is concerned with the distributing or financing company providing enough paid apprenticeships or internships to under-represented groups and also training opportunities and skills development for these groups too.

Finally, the fourth standard concerns representation of under-represented groups in marketing, publicity and distribution teams for these films.

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