Brit Awards announce voting overhaul following criticism over lack of diversity

Outrage among stars like Laura Mvula and Stormzy led to a shake-up of the system

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The Brit Awards has overhauled its voting system following controversy over its lack of diversity, inviting over 700 new pundits to nominate talent.

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This year’s awards were criticised after BAME artists were absent from all but the international categories, leading to the hashtag #BritsSoWhite and a boycott threat from Laura Mvula, as well as Stormzy saying the Brits were “embarrassing” in his song One Take Freestyle.

It is hoped that the 718 new invitees will “refresh” the voting system following a major review which discovered that 70% of the voting academy was male, so the gender balance has been adjusted and next year’s winners will be chosen by a panel that is 52% male and 48% female.

Ged Doherty, chairman of the Brits, said the changes meant the awards were now “better equipped to reflect the diverse nature of Britain and British music” and previously told Radio 1’s Newsbeat that Stormzy’s comments were “a wake up call for me”.

In a statement about the new system, he said: “There’s been a long-held myth that BRITs winners and nominees are decided by industry executives in a smoke-filled room, but the simple truth is that the awards are voted for each year by a 1000 plus strong Voting Academy made up of experts drawn from all areas of music.”

The Brits’ push to reflect diversity will be furthered by the fact that some of 2016’s best albums have been released by artists from ethnic minority backgrounds: Kano, Michael Kiwanuka and Mvula being prime examples of this, all of whom were shortlisted for the Mercury prize earlier this year. Skepta’s self-released grime album Konnichiwa won that prize, beating the late David Bowie.

Mvula, speaking to Radio 1, said she was “happy” that progress has been made, but added: “This should have been happening a long time ago… I want to be excited about going to the Brits. I want to feel like, ‘you know what, this is a room where I’m acknowledged, and I’m as relevant as the next person”.

The trophies for next year’s awards were designed by the late architect Zaha Hadid, and singer Michael Buble is due to host – but it is unclear whether he will do so after his son was diagnosed with cancer last week.

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The 2017 ceremony will be held on 22 February at the O2 arena and broadcast on ITV2