March 29, 2017 / 8:35 PM / 5 months ago

Oscar accountants get reprieve after best picture blunder

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The accountancy firm behind the biggest blunder in Oscar history is staying in the picture.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said on Wednesday it has decided to retain the services of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) despite a backstage envelope mix-up that led to the wrong film being announced the winner of the best picture Oscar last month.

But a third accountant will be added to the PwC staff on the Oscars night and backstage tweeting, photos and posting to other social media will be banned.

"After a thorough review, including an extensive presentation of revised protocols and ambitious controls, the Board has decided to continue working with PwC," Academy President Cheryl Boone Isaacs wrote on Wednesday in a letter to Academy members that was made available to the media.

Isaacs added that the Academy had been "unsparing in our assessment that the mistake made by representatives of the firm was unacceptable."

The unprecedented mishap led to musical "La La Land" being declared the winner and its producers and cast celebrated and started acceptance speeches on the stage before "Moonlight" was named the real winner of the night's top prize.

Isaacs called it "the most extraordinary and memorable Oscars ceremony in decades."

Oscar winning ballots are carried along the red carpet by personnel from Price Waterhouse Coopers as they arrive for the 89th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, U.S. February 26, 2017. Picture taken February 26, 2017.Mike Blake

PwC, which has overseen Oscar balloting for 83 years, took full responsibility for the gaffe, which stunned the A-list audience in Hollywood and millions watching on television.

PwC quickly removed the two accountants responsible from further involvement in the Academy Awards and carried out a review of its procedures.

Starting next year, Isaacs said PwC will place a third accountant in the Oscars show control room, who will be able immediately to notify the director should a mistake be made.

All accountants will have to hand over their phones and other electronic devices before going backstage, Isaacs said.

That decision followed news that one of the accountants involved in the Feb. 26 blunder had been taking photos backstage with celebrities and posting them on Twitter during the ceremony.

Other new measures include closer checks of the winner envelopes on stage and rehearsals with the accountants ahead of the Oscar ceremony, Isaacs said.

PwC on Wednesday confirmed its services were being retained by the Academy but said nothing more.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bill Rigby and Marguerita Choy

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