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Oprah Winfrey as Oscar host?

July 8, 2011 |  7:11 am

Oprahstory She's given up her platform as a daytime talk-show host, but could Oprah Winfrey be back in front of a national audience as the host of the Oscars?

The Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday morning that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has Winfrey "topping the list of candidates" to host next year's show, which ABC will broadcast from the Kodak Theatre in late February. "Academy honchos firmly believe Winfrey could greatly expand the show’s audience," wrote columnist Bill Zwecker. An academy spokeswoman did not immediately reply to a request seeking comment.

Winfrey has a history with ABC, whose affiliates carried her long-running syndicated program before it went off the air earlier this year.

It remains to be seen whether Winfrey would accept the gig, of course; according to Zwecker it could come with preconditions for behind-the-scenes access for OWN, the Winfrey-founded network that has been struggling to attract viewers.

If Winfrey indeed presides at the Kodak, she'll join an elite group, becoming only the third solo female host in Oscar history. (Whoopi Goldberg has hosted four times and Ellen DeGeneres once.)

A Winfrey hosting would mark the latest attempt to expand the audience for the show; organizers attempted to draw a younger audience by choosing James Franco and Anne Hathaway to host the telecast this year. Winfrey appeared as a presenter at the 2011 ceremony, handing out the statuette for best documentary.

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Academy will nominate between five and 10 best picture candidates

-- Steven Zeitchik

twitter.com/ZeitchikLAT

Photo: Oprah Winfrey. Credit: John Gress / Reuters.

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