Like the Academy, BAFTA Is Reviewing Its Members' Voting Privileges

BAFTA Awards - H 2015
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BAFTA Awards - H 2015

Like the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts is currently reviewing its membership rolls to decide who should retain voting privileges for its annual BAFTA Awards. But unlike the Academy, whose efforts have proven controversial, BAFTA's review has gone much more smoothly, winning the approval of the majority of its members.

BAFTA cited "practical reasons" for its decision to limit voting for its BAFTA Awards to 6,500 of its members. The organization currently has 7,500 members around the world. In order to ensure that its most qualified members are included under the 6,500-member voting cap it has decided to impose, BAFTA has said it will "periodically" review its membership rolls and rescind voting privileges for those who haven't worked within the industry "for more than 20 years" or "within the last five years." Anyone active for more than 20 years will be granted lifetime voting rights.

The BAFTA initiative was first proposed at the group's annual general meeting in June 2015. The boards of BAFTA's London and New York chapters directly approved the measure. In Los Angeles, BAFTA-LA chairman Kieran Breen emailed members earlier this month and asked for backing in an online vote before following suit. After he laid out in detail why the review was necessary and how it would work, 83 percent of BAFTA-LA's members offered their support, he reported to members Tuesday in an email.

BAFTA shares a considerable number of its members with the Academy. And its new rules, while similar to those the Academy has instituted, are actual stricter. 

Under the Academy's new procedure, members can lose their voting rights if they have been inactive for a period of 10 years (as opposed to the five years stipulated in the BAFTA plan) — unless they have previously received an Oscar nomination or been active within three separate 10-year periods (a requirement that can be filled with 21 years of work, just like the BAFTA plan's).

In instances when members do not meet BAFTA's new standards, the organization will "reclassify their membership so that they can remain members and enjoy all the usual benefits at a discounted membership fee, but without award voting rights or screeners." Also, Breen wrote, "There will be provisions for career breaks (for example, due to illness or to start a family), and this will also not affect retired members who have had significant careers" — preemptively addressing the major concern that surfaced among many Academy members when their organization first announced its membership review. "There will of course be an appeals process for members who feel they have been incorrectly reclassified," he said.

"You have all earned your award voting rights through years of exceptional practice and application at the highest levels of your craft and profession," Breen reiterated. "We expect only a very small number might not meet this broad criteria, namely those who had perhaps worked in our industry for a short time some years ago, before taking a different career path."

While BAFTA has cited practical considerations, involving the screening and nomination process leading up to its awards, for its membership review, the Academy first attributed its review to a need to increase diversity among its members and nominations. The Academy now says its main motivation was a desire to remain relevant. Unlike BAFTA, the Academy has not proposed a numerical voting cap — and the number of voting members of the Academy could actually grow if the Academy invites a larger-than-usual number of new members to join this summer.

While diversity is not the driving motivation for BAFTA's review of members, its review will nevertheless factor into the organization's efforts to become a more diverse body. "We will be collating the information from our member survey to give us a picture of the makeup of our membership and help ensure we are representing a diversity of views in all we do," BAFTA-New York chairman Luke Parker Bowles said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter. "Once we have analyzed the findings, we will publish a new diversity policy later this year. The policy will be based on the findings of the members survey as well as those of a study we are currently undertaking, with Creative Skillset and the BFI, on successful individuals from underrepresented groups within film, television and games. The research aims to inform policy, initiatives and resources for employers and workers."