Three days after yanking the Original Song nomination from the religious period-drama Alone Yet Not Alone, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has issue a more detailed explanation about why the theme song was disqualified.
At issue was composer Bruce Broughton, a former governor of the group’s music branch, who acknowledged that he privately emailed members of that voting division and asked them to consider his song from the relatively obscure movie.
Meanwhile, Broughton is questioning whether what he did was any different than the past award-season consulting done by the current Academy president, who comes from a background in marketing and public relations.
Since every film is hyped and promoted in some way, the Academy is now explaining why his actions were deemed improper – saying he directly reached out to nearly one-third of the voters in his field, and used his position as a leader to gain an advantage that other contenders didn’t have.
“The Academy takes very seriously anything that undermines the integrity of the Oscars voting process,” Saturday’s statement read. “The Board regretfully concluded that Mr. Broughton’s actions did precisely that.”
There were 75 eligible songs for the 240 music branch members to consider, and the Academy said it attempts to obscure the credits for each song to make it harder for voters to be influenced by friendships.
“The nominating process for Original Song is intended to be anonymous, with each eligible song listed only by title and the name of the film in which it is used – the idea being to prevent favoritism and promote unbiased voting,” the Academy statement said, citing rules requiring DVD screeners to omit composer and lyricist credits that are sent to the music branch. “The Academy wants members to vote for nominees based solely on the achievement of a particular song in a movie, without regard to who may have written it.”
The Academy says Broughton emailed at least 70 of his fellow voters in the music branch, which is about a third of the overall 240 members. (There are at total of 6,193 voters in the overall Academy.)
“When he identified the song as track #57, as one he had composed, and asked voting branch members to listen to it, he took advantage of information that few other potential nominees are privy to,” the Academy said. “As a former Academy Governor and current member of the Music Branch’s executive committee, Mr. Broughton should have been more cautious about acting in a way that made it appear as if he were taking advantage of his position to exert undue influence.”
In other words, although there is no specific rule banning Academy leadership from directly lobbying for their own works, the Academy still considers what he did to be an ethical breach.
“At a minimum, his actions called into question whether the process was ‘fair and equitable,’ as the Academy’s rules require,” today’s statement read. “The Academy is dedicated to doing everything it can to ensure a level playing field for all potential Oscar contenders – including those who don’t enjoy the access, knowledge, and influence of a long-standing Academy insider.”
did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new details released by the Academy, but on Wednesday said he was “devastated” by their decision: ”I indulged in the simplest grass-roots campaign and it went against me when the song started getting attention. I got taken down by competition that has months of promotion and advertising behind them. I simply asked people to find the song and consider it.”
UPDATE: Today, his reps forwarded EW text of a letter he sent to Academy chief executive Dawn Hudson and the Oscar publicity team, disputing that he did anything different than the president of the Academy herself.
“I just looked at the Academy release on the rescinding of the nomination and came upon this line in the penultimate paragraph: ‘Members were asked to watch the clips and then vote in the order of their preference for not more than five nominees in the category.’ This isn’t at all accurate.”
He is referring to the DVD collection of excerpted songs, sent to the music branch members.
“What the letter that [current music branch governor] Charlie Fox sent to accompany the DVD actually said was: ‘When making your voting selections, simply select up to five songs in order of your preference. We hope that you will watch [italics Broughton’s] the enclosed DVD and use it to better inform your voting decision. Based upon that italicized phrase, I decided to send some emails.”
He also suggested hypocrisy from newly elected Academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs, who comes from a marketing and PR background.
“Furthermore, if, as you quote the Academy’s rules, ‘it is the Academy’s goal to ensure that the Awards competition is conducted in a fair and ethical manner,’ and my 70 or so emails constitutes a breach of that standard, why could the current Academy president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, consult on Academy Award nominated projects like The Artist, The King’s Speech and others with a history as an Academy governor that far exceeds mine and at the same time produce the Governors’ Ball without having that look like a breach of the same standard?”
The Academy did not immediately respond to request for comment on that claim. Insiders within the organization tell EW that the significant difference is that in Boone Isaacs’ work as a publicist, she was never campaigning for herself.
No runner-up will take Alone Yet Not Alone’s place. The category will only have four honorees this year:
• “Happy” from Despicable Me 2
Music and Lyric by Pharrell Williams
• “Let It Go” from Frozen
Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
• “The Moon Song” from Her
Music by Karen O; Lyric by Karen O and Spike Jonze
• “Ordinary Love” from Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Music by U2 – (credited as Paul Hewson a.k.a. Bono, Dave Evans a.k.a. The Edge, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen; Lyric by Paul Hewson)
Here is the song that caused such a stir – getting more attention now than even an Oscar win may have provided: