#OscarsSoWhite

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Some of the biggest movie stars in Hollywood will walk the red carpet at the 88th Academy Awards ceremony this Sunday. Despite the festivities and the cheering crowds, many are saying everything isn’t golden for the event presented by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

When the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite resurged for the second year after no actors of color were nominated, it seemed the Academy had an image problem with race. To add insult to injury, highly acclaimed films with diverse casts, including Beast of No Nation and Straight Outta Compton, where shut out of the best picture category. Many wondered, can the Oscars solve its race problem?

Now recent studies are showing the image or race problem with the Academy stems from a lack of inclusion in Hollywood. On Monday, Feb. 22, both the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and USA Today, released findings after examining the film and television industries.

The Annenberg study says men outnumber women as directors, writers, and industry executives. Minorities are significantly underrepresented in acting roles. Lesbian, gay, and transgender characters are almost nonexistent.

“The prequel to OscarsSoWhite is HollywoodSoWhite,” said Stacy L. Smith, a USC professor and one of the study’s authors, in an interview. “We don’t have a diversity problem. We have an inclusion crisis.”

The study done by USA Today showed out of the 184 movies announced for release in 2016 by 14 studios, there was a dearth in minority and women in major roles and among directors. Those results suggest the 2017 Academy Awards could be the third year where major nominees are all white.

The question remains, is the lack of inclusion a public relations or marketing problem? According to an Adweek article the answer is no for the Academy.

“The average cost of a 30-second spot in this year’s three-hour-plus [Oscar] telecast… is expected to be $1.9 million to $2 million, a double-digit bump versus last year and an all-time record, per Kantar Media figures,” the article stated.

Despite the “business as usual” claim from the Oscars, Hollywood has seen low movie audiences in the past decade. Lack of diversity, as well as the high cost of a ticket are reasons many are staying away from theaters. Will the industry continue to ignore its inclusion problem or take a page from television?

Once slumping television network ratings have gotten a boost in viewership with the addition of women, minorities, and L.G.B.T. characters in major roles.

Despite success in television, from a public relations and marketing standpoint, it doesn’t look like the lack of diversity or inclusion will change until studios start feeling the pinch in their wallets.

As long as advertisers pay high dollars for product placement in films and record dollars during the Oscars, movie executives can take their time in making the changes needed to reflect the make-up of American audiences.

By Damali Hill, @DamaliPR

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