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Academy announces major changes to membership amid #OscarsSoWhite backlash

An Oscar statue stands on the red carpet outside the theater. (Amy Sancetta/AP)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced major changes to its membership structure Friday after a week of fierce criticism over the lack of diversity among this year’s Oscar nominees.

Membership will no longer be a guaranteed lifetime appointment and current members inactive in the industry could see their voting rights removed. The Board of Governors, which unanimously approved the new rules on Thursday, will expand. An “ambitious, global campaign” will recruit “qualified new members who represent greater diversity,” the academy said in a statement, adding that it wants to double “the number of women and diverse members” by 2020.

[Oscar nominations 2016: Complete coverage]

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

The makeup of the academy’s membership has long been secret; in 2012, the Los Angeles Times published an analysis showing 94 percent of voting members were white and hundreds of members hadn’t worked in movies in decades.

[Who picked those #OscarsSoWhite nominees? Other white people.]

Since then, the academy, particularly under Boone Isaacs, has stepped up efforts to bolster diversity. But increasing the number of invitations and extending them to a more diverse group of people did little to change the overall makeup of the membership. A year after the Times’s analysis, the newspaper found that membership was still 93 percent white.

Which Hollywood personalities are speaking out on #OscarsSoWhite and the lack of diversity in the acting nominations? (Video: Nicki DeMarco/The Washington Post)

The new rules, which will be applied retroactively to current members, may alter what critics have described as the insidery nature of gaining membership. Current members can still sponsor new ones, but voting rights will only last for 10 years and members can only retain them after that if they’ve remained active in the industry during that decade. Members can still get locked in for life if they’ve had three, 10-year voting terms, or if they receive an Oscar nomination.

The Board of Governors will add three seats “to immediately increase diversity” and add non-governors to executive and board committees, the academy said in a statement.

This year’s Oscars backlash has sparked an outcry far beyond social media as some in the industry have pledged to boycott the ceremony. Spike Lee, Michael Moore, Jada Pinkett Smith and her husband Will Smith have all said they won’t be attending in the wake of last week’s nominations, which were without a single person of color in the major acting categories for the second straight year.

Boone Isaacs — who is black and was once the only person of color on the academy’s board of governors — said Sunday that “the change is not coming as fast as we would like” and that “we need to do more, and better and more quickly.”