In a move aimed at curtailing abuses that have marred recent Oscar races, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has mailed its members an eight-page code of ethics asking them to curb "manipulative and excessive" Oscar campaigns that encourage "a public perception that perhaps an Oscar can be bought."
The new code requests the academy's nearly 6,500 members to "voluntarily curtail their freedom of written and electronic speech during the awards season." Specifically, they are asked to refrain from writing op-ed pieces or give interviews praising or denigrating pictures that are "in play" at the time.
The academy said that in "the most recent decade, there have been "monetary outlays and questionable tactics that have far outstripped anything in the past." Although the code does not spell out specific penalties, the pamphlet warns members that they face expulsion from the academy and that a film can be dropped from contention for the most serious breaches.
The pamphlet also notes that Oscar season parties aimed at lobbying members have become "one of the most distasteful aspects of the academy process." It asks members to curtail such events if their primary purpose is lobbying.
"The simplest, most direct path to protecting the Academy Award process from debasement real or suspected would be to arrive at a point at which electioneering disappeared entirely," the code states.
The code instructs studios to keep their print and television ads free of endorsements from academy members and says it is not appropriate to run ads that are designed to engender sympathy votes on behalf of filmmakers because of the strength of their bodies of work -- a clear reference to ads on behalf of Oscar-nominated director Martin Scorsese that were attributed to former academy President Robert Wise.
The academy said "a new and pernicious tactic" had arisen in recent years involving the dissemination of potentially damaging rumors about pictures in contention. "Such strategies are completely indefensible, and there will be no tolerance of them by the academy," the pamphlet states.
"I think there is a hope on the board that we can just remind people of some basic principles for conducting this annual exercise that always existed but maybe has been forgotten or ignored in recent years," said Bruce Davis, the academy's executive director.