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Film Academy Votes To Increase Diversity

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out the Oscar Awards, is 93 percent white, with an average age of 63. Chris Pizzello/Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP hide caption

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Chris Pizzello/Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which hands out the Oscar Awards, is 93 percent white, with an average age of 63.

Chris Pizzello/Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

Following criticism over the lack of diversity in this year's Oscar nominations, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has voted to approve changes aimed at doubling the number of women and people of color in its membership by 2020.

The board of governors unanimously approved a series of changes to "make the Academy's membership, its governing bodies, and its voting members significantly more diverse," the organization said in a statement.

NPR's Neda Ulaby reports that the academy called an emergency meeting on Thursday night in response to threats of boycotts against this year's awards ceremony.

"It pledged to not only recruit but double the number of women and people of color in membership over the next four years and to make changes in its current membership" to promote diversity.

The announcement came after the organization was blasted for having no nonwhite nominees for the 20 acting awards — for the second year in a row. The movies Creed, Straight Outta Compton and Concussion — all of which feature black characters in key roles — were also snubbed. The nominations prompted the revival of #OscarsSoWhite on social media, which pointedly called out the homogeneity of the Academy Awards.

The lack of diversity among nominees wasn't surprising to Darnell Hunt, director of UCLA's Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies.

"Were talking about an academy that's overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male," he told All Things Considered. "93 percent white, 76 percent male, average age 63. People are voting for things that resonate with their experiences and unfortunately it's too narrow a slice."

The changes not only expand diversity of future membership but change the demographic of current members. As it stands now, many voting members have not been active in the industry for decades. Under the new rules, they will have to be active to vote, although there are some exceptions, including for previous Oscar winners.