Academy Says Song Decision Was About Oscar ‘Integrity’

2014 Oscar Nominations List

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences on Saturday clarified its decision to rescind the original song nomination for “Alone Yet Not Alone,”  with Acad president Cheryl Boone Isaacs telling Variety “it all comes down to the integrity of the award process.”

The Academy announced the revocation Wednesday, and on Saturday issued another press release giving more detail about its decision. Later in the day Bougton issued an open letter to the Acad defending his actions.

Contacted by Variety, Boone Isaacs said, “Every year we review the awards season process in every way, to modify, clarify, improve, and to do whatever is needed for more clarity. It all comes down to the integrity of the awards process. Everything changes constantly, including the business, the ways of communicating and the rules. We’re always trying to be in front of the situation to keep the integrity of the awards process at its highest level.”

A spokesperson said the organization had received a few phone calls and emails about the decision, but most of the reaction was in the media, rather than within the Academy.

During nomination process, the Academy sends a DVD to the 240 members of the music branch that includes scenes from each film showing the use of the song in context (even if the context is closing credits). This year, there were 75 eligible songs. The Academy specifically does not list composers or lyricists, just the movie and song titles, considering this a vote for achievement. They also scramble the order of these clips, to keep it on a level playing field (i.e., so the titles early in the alphabet don’t have an advantage.)

Bruce Broughton, a former music-branch governor and current member of the executive committee, had emailed 70 members asking them to consider song Number 57, “Alone Yet Not Alone,” from the movie of the same title. He wrote the music, with lyrics by Dennis Spiegel. The email asked for their consideration, and he attached his name to it.

The Academy considers its membership branch roster to be an official Academy list and confidential. The org does not give out its roster to others. Many campaign strategists compile their own lists, and Acad rules say it’s OK to invite a member to a screening or event, but forbids anything beyond that, such as direct solicitation of votes.

As an Academy exec, Broughton knows most (if not all) members of the music branch, so an email from him is different from a corporate email.

It’s no surprise that the Academy did not add a new nominee when the song was nixed. The Acad’s Rule 5, point 7 in the list of nomination regulations includes the sentence “In the event a nominated achievement is declared ineligible by the Academy, it shall not be replaced, and the category will remain with one less nomination.”

The statement issued Saturday reads as follows:

The Board of Governors’ decision to rescind the Original Song nomination for “Alone Yet Not Alone,” music by Bruce Broughton, was made thoughtfully and after careful consideration. The Academy takes very seriously anything that undermines the integrity of the Oscars voting process. The Board regretfully concluded that Mr. Broughton’s actions did precisely that.

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. It’s been a long-standing policy and practice of the Academy—as well as a requirement of Rule 5.3 of the 86th Academy Awards Rules—­­to omit composer and lyricist credits from the DVD of eligible songs that are sent to members of 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.

Mr. Broughton sent an email to at least 70 of his fellow Music Branch members—nearly one-third of the branch’s 240 members. 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. 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. At a minimum, his actions called into question whether the process was “fair and equitable,” as the Academy’s rules require. 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.

Boughton detailed his justifications for reaching out directly to members in his letter addressed to Acad PR exec Teni Melidonian.

Here it is in full:

Dear Teni,

I just looked at the Academy release of 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.

What the letter that 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 mine) the enclosed DVD and use it to better inform your voting decision.”

Based upon that italicized phrase, I decided to send some emails.

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?

I am of course copying Dawn Hudson on this email, and would have included Cheryl if I had had her email address.

Best regards,

Bruce Broughton

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  1. Jeff says:

    Does anyone seriously believe that the voting members of the music branch would have singled out this song that nobody ever heard of from this movie that nobody ever heard of if it weren’t for the fact that their attention was drawn to it by this member email? I’m sure if they hated what they heard they wouldn’t have voted for it, but I’m equally sure that the song wouldn’t have jumped out at them if they weren’t looking for it. The Academy had no choice. Broughton’s defenders are naïve to think that Broughton’s email, however inadvertently, didn’t do exactly what the Academy is afraid it did. Exert undue influence.

  2. tamar says:

    The Academy Awards needs to get its sh!t together.

  3. tom says:

    The hymn Allein und doch nicht ganz allein was written by Benjamin Schmock in the Eighteen Century. The exact translation of the title is “Alone, yet not all alone”. Does this have something to do with the “original song” in question?
    Allein, und duch nicht ganz allein
    Bin ich in meinem Einsamkeit.. etc

  4. Lisa says:

    And here we have a huge ad above this comment box ‘For your consideration’ for the film ‘Her’. Sigh. Enough said.

  5. Tel says:

    We all know the REAL reason it was pulled; discrimination.

  6. Nanny Mo says:

    This is the right decision. You can’t allow PC thinking to tare down a great institution. It’s fair because everyone knows the rules. You break the rules and you’re out of the competition. I’ll bet everyone will think about that next year and follow the rules more closely.

  7. Michael Anthony says:

    The bigger joke is that you believe what you wrote.

  8. Mark Malloy says:

    I agree with the Academy’s action, as it had no choice under the rules. Consider a trial jury, told each day not to discuss the case while in progress, but to wait until the trial ends and deliberations begin. Is it naive to assume each juror will abide by those rules? Maybe, but they are the rules that we, as a society, have created and given our oath to live by. And though it’s reasonable to think that Mr. Broughton sent his email without intending to exert undue influence on the voters in question, the fact that the email came from an executive committee member had the potential to do exactly that. Therefore, the Academy was left with no option but to take the action it did.

  9. Cliff Chism says:

    If the Academy believes that so many of their voting members can be swayed by a simple and direct email, they don’t think too highly of their members. Personally, I don’t buy their explanation at all.

  10. charles116 says:

    Joke or not. why did this dolt feel HE was entitles to break or violate the rules.

  11. Susan S Moss says:

    Does the Academy also exclude names of writers, actors, directors, producers, etc to not not promote favoritism?

    • timgray2013 says:

      The Academy doesn’t send out many DVDs. They started the music one because sometimes voters were listening to songs without any context. The Academy doesn’t send out DVDs for writers, producers, etc. With more than 250 eligible films, that would be massive. But it issues a reminder booklet with all the eligible films and lists the names of many actors; each film has usually one director and cinematographer, but a bunch of actors.

  12. ThomT says:

    While I mostly agree with the action of the Academy (although I find their reasoning somewhat ambiguous) it would be not only naive but disingenuous to surmise that a vast majority of the 240 voting members were not already very well aware of the composers and lyricists of the songs submitted by the contemporaries.

  13. Edward G says:

    Because no one knows who wrote the U2 sing,or the Coldplay song…as none of those writing credits are made public , aside from the direct e mails to music branch members personal accounts by PR companies who’s job it is to let us know who wrote what from which film.this seems a rather flimsy reason for excluding Alone yet not alone

    • timgray2013 says:

      The difference is that this DVD was sent out by the Academy. If the studio wants to promote U2 or Coldplay, they have freedom of speech. But when the Academy sends a DVD (which it doesn’t do for most categories), it’s saying “Judge the song and its use in the film, don’t vote by brand names.” I guess the fear is that members would be tempted to vote for U2 or Coldplay without hearing the songs, which would give those two an advantage over the song from a little-known indie film.

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