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BAFTA looks to stuff ballot box

Members who receive DVDs, screening invitations must vote

Members of BAFTA now have something in common with the citizens of Australia, Fiji and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq — compulsory voting.

As part of BAFTA’s get-tough policy for its upcoming film awards, any member who signed up to receive DVDs and screening invitations must exercise his vote, or else lose voting privileges next year.

Move is designed to reinforce the legitimacy of the awards, particularly in the eyes of distribs who spend considerable sums wooing BAFTA members.

BAFTA has never revealed how many of its 5,800 members vote, but the org’s film chairman David Parfitt admits, “There is a suspicion in the industry that the figure is quite low, and this percolates through to the distributors, who have the feeling that many people only sign up for the freebies.”

However, members will be allowed to abstain if they feel they haven’t seen enough of the year’s movies, or if they don’t feel competent to judge specific categories. Indeed, BAFTA is for the first time sending out voting advice to its members, actively encouraging them to tick the “don’t know” box for technical awards such as make-up/hair or f/x, unless they really know what they’re talking about.

BAFTA is also taking a hard line with distributors on campaigning. DreamWorks was blocked from sending out Christmas crackers containing a “Shrek” toy and a “Collateral” DVD containing an extra docu on Tom Cruise.

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