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