U.S. television network NBC said on Monday it will not air Hollywood’s Golden Globes ceremony in 2022 following complaints about ethical lapses and lack of diversity among the group that hands out the annual awards for film and television.
The primary subject of those complaints is the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the group that administrates the Golden Globes. Those complaints came to a head earlier this year, when the Los Angeles Times published an investigation into the HFPA, which noted that there were no Black people currently registered as members of the organization.
The newspaper also raised longstanding ethical questions over the close relationships between the HFPA and movie studios that may influence the choice of Golden Globe nominees and winners.
Following that story, the organization’s membership approved widespread changes designed to diversify its ranks and address ethics complaints.
The steps include hiring a chief diversity officer, emphasizing recruitment of Black journalists and widening the pool of potential applicants for the group of foreign entertainment journalists.
The new rules also required that HFPA members stop accepting promotional items from film and TV studios, and that the group post a public list of members with links to their work.
But just two months after that announcement, the group once again found itself embroiled in controversy. Its former president, Philip Berk, was ousted from the group in February for sending an email that criticized Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors.
The South African-born Berk had shared an article that called Black Lives Matter a “racist hate movement” and described Cullors as a “self-proclaimed trained Marxist,” according to a report from the Los Angeles Times.
NBC condemned Berk’s actions and called for his “immediate expulsion” after the email became public knowledge. The newly hired diversity adviser, Shaun Harper, also condemned Berk’s actions and resigned.
In his resignation letter, Harper said that he was initially optimistic when he joined the organization but felt compelled to step down after learning about the group’s “deep systemic and reputational challenges.”
“I no longer have confidence in our ability to collaboratively deliver the transformational change that the industry and people in it whom I deeply respect are demanding of you,” said Harper, who is a professor of racial, gender and LGBTQ issues at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business.
Threats to boycott
Last week, Netflix also cast doubt on its future involvement with the HFPA.
“We don’t believe these proposed new policies — particularly around the size and speed of membership growth — will tackle the HFPA’s systemic diversity and inclusion challenges, or the lack of clear standards for how your members should operate,” co-chief executive Ted Sarandos wrote in a letter to the group.
And earlier Monday, Warner Bros. said it would cease holding screenings and other events for the HFPA until it made more substantial changes.
NBC released its own statement shortly after it announced the cancellation of the Globes.
In it, the network’s leaders said they “believe they believe that the HFPA is committed to meaningful reform,” but the organization still needs more time to do so.”
Late Monday, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association responded to NBC’s decision, but did not directly address the 2022 telecast. Instead, board members laid out a schedule for reforms that would ultimately lead to a revamped membership and board by early August, as well as numerous other policy changes.
“Regardless of the next air date of the Golden Globes, implementing transformational changes as quickly — and as thoughtfully — as possible remains the top priority for our organization,” the group said in a statement. “We invite our partners in the industry to the table to work with us on the systemic reform that is long overdue, both in our organization as well as within the industry at large.”
The group faces an uphill battle to repair relationships with production companies, distributors and audiences. Shortly after NBC’s announcement on Monday, Deadline reported that Tom Cruise joined other actors in protesting the awards by returning the three Golden Globe trophies he’s won.
Prior to NBC’s announcement, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo and other stars had urged members of the entertainment industry to distance themselves from the HFPA.
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“We’ve been fighting for this kind of inclusion and equity for a really long time, and I think this last year it’s been at warp speed,” L.A.-based, Canadian actor Tonya Williams told CBC News. “The fact that the entire industry has really stood up and pushed against this massive organization really is telling.”
Williams — who in 2020 launched Access Reelworld, Canada’s largest database for hiring racially diverse talent — said that the HFPA has been an outlier when it comes to a widespread push for diversity in the entertainment industry.
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The HFPA’s membership is largely based in Europe. Williams said its members didn’t understand the significance of movements battling systemic racism that swept North America in the past year.
For that reason, she said, they did not change as much, or as quickly, as was necessary. And now they’re in danger of being left behind.
“I believe it’s going to be adapt or die,” Williams said. “I think it’s going to be that serious.”
HFPA’s $60-million deal
In 2018, NBC and Dick Clark Productions, the show’s producer, signed an eight-year deal to continue broadcasting the Globes, which they have done since 1996. In that deal, NBC agreed to increase the amount it paid the HFPA from $21 million US to $60 million US.
That deal was made largely off the the awards show’s solid ratings, which had mostly held strong since 2009, while other awards shows — such as the Grammys and Emmys — saw precipitous falls.
But this year the Golden Globes also saw a drastic ratings drop. The awards show dropped from 18.7 million viewers in 2020 to 6.9 million in 2021, according to Nielsen Media Research.
David Poland, editor of Hollywood periodical Movie City News, told CBC News that the HFPA’s deal with NBC gave them an “enormous amount of power and prestige,” while keeping their membership low allowed them to take advantage of lavish gifts and other financial opportunities.
Whereas groups like the Oscars have thousands of voting members, the HFPA has less than 90. With so few members, Poland said, productions are incentivized to make expensive offerings in order to solicit votes.
“I’ve estimated over the years that the package that you get annually as a member of HFPA is worth $200,000 to $300,000 a year in trade — whether it’s hotels, or travel, or food or anything else,” he said.
Those practices most recently came under fire when it was revealed producers for Netflix’s Emily In Paris flew over 30 HFPA members to France. Emily in Paris later received two nominations for the Globes, despite one of the show’s writers stating in an op-ed that another show — Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You, which received no nominations — deserved the honour more.
Poland said that the only way for the HFPA to survive past this controversy “is for them to basically give up the ghost of what it’s been for them.” They must give up the perks they’ve been receiving, grow their ranks to at least 300 members and convince legitimate journalist to continue to associate themselves with the awards.
Whether that will happen is not certain, he said.
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