No cellphones backstage for accountants after Oscar flub

LOS ANGELES — PwC accountants won’t be allowed to have their cellphones backstage during future Oscar telecasts.

Film academy president Cheryl Boone Isaacs sent an email to academy members Wednesday detailing the new protocols for announcing Oscar winners developed after the best-picture flub at last month’s Academy Awards. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences spokeswoman Teni Melidonian confirmed the authenticity of the email.

The academy’s Board of Governors discussed its ongoing relationship with PwC, formerly known as PricewaterhouseCoopers, and established the new controls at a meeting Tuesday night. Besides banning cellphones, the academy is adding a third balloting partner to the telecast, and bringing in PwC’s U.S. chairman to provide oversight.

PwC, which has handled Oscar balloting and other academy business for 83 years, has claimed responsibility for the biggest mistake in Oscar history. Balloting partner Brian Cullinan tweeted a photo of Emma Stone backstage moments before handing presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway the wrong envelope for best picture. They announced “La La Land” as the winner, though “Moonlight” actually won.

Boone Isaacs blamed Cullinan’s distraction for the error. PwC said that both he and partner Martha Ruiz failed to follow established protocols that night and did not act quickly enough to correct the error.

Traditionally, two PwC partners have overseen Oscar balloting and are the only two people who know the winners before they are announced live onstage. They’re stationed on opposite sides of the Dolby Theatre stage, each with an identical set of winners’ envelopes for the show’s 24 categories.

Boone Isaacs said in her email Wednesday that a third balloting partner with knowledge of the winners will sit with the telecast director going forward. Balloting partners will also be required to participate in Oscar rehearsals, she said.

She called the 89th Academy Awards “the most extraordinary and memorable Oscars ceremony in decades” and said that academy officials have been working since then to develop the new protocols adopted Tuesday.

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