Academy President Defends Disqualifying 'Alone Yet Not Alone' Song Nomination

Cheryl Boone Isaacs - H 2013
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Responding to critics who have accused the Academy of rescinding its nomination for the song "Alone Yet Not Alone" because it comes from a faith-based film, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, said, "This is not about the film. This is about the voting process in one category. That's all there is. We are adamant about keeping the integrity of our voting process."

On Jan. 29, the Academy announced that it was rescinding the nomination of the song, by composer Bruce Broughton and lyricist Dennis Spiegel, because Broughton, a former representative of the music branch on the Academy's board of governors, lobbied fellow music branch members via email during the voting period, a violation of the Academy's campaign regulations.

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After the Academy issued a more detailed statement today further explaining its position, Isaacs said the move was necessary to maintain a level playing field among potential nominees and, in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, she also explained why a replacement nominee was not named.

"This was about the appearance of undue influence," Isaacs said. "A former governor and member of the executive committee of the music branch made a specific request for voting members in that branch to look up, view and hear the song he wrote." That, she said, is a violation of Rule 5.3 governing Oscar campaigning for the best original song Oscar: When members are asked to consider the qualifying songs, the songs are identified by title and film but not by the names of their respective composers and lyricists. "The Academy gives out an official reminder list to the music branch -- an original song reminder list -- and on that list is only [listed] a film title and a song title, specifically so that there are no names for the composer or the lyricist," Isaacs said. Broughton, in his emails to at least 70 of the branch's 240 members, directed them to the song, identifying it by its number on the list.

"Our purpose is to keep a level playing field and to keep it anonymous," Isaacs continued, "so when one person -- in this case, Mr. Broughton -- sends out an email driving the voting members to a specific song that's his, it does break the rules." She continued, "And, certainly, a member of the executive committee of the music branch should know this."

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While other best original song Oscar hopefuls were promoted by deep-pocketed distributors with expensive ads and lavish events, Isaacs said they did not break the rules, while Broughton's actions did. "[In that scenario] the people in the audience are comprised of a whole number and range of people; the audience is full of many different folks. This was a direct communique to voting members who are given an official list that specifically kept the names of the composers and the lyricists off to avoid undue influence. This was a very targeted, specific approach. That's very different. And no one else, other than people in the music branch, would have this reminder list with the number, the eligible song and the title," she said.

In response to widespread questions about why the sixth highest vote-getter from among this year's 75 Oscar-eligible songs hasn't been announced as a replacement nominee, Isaacs once again pointed to the rule book, saying, "In our Oscar official rules book for distinguished achievements during 2013, our official book, Rule 5, number 7 [reads]: '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.' "

On a personal level, she said, sanctioning Broughton, with whom she served for many years on the Academy's board of governors, has been very difficult. "It's not one of the most pleasant things, of course. It's not easy."

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg