The Time’s Up organization and a coalition of more than 100 PR firms released separate letters on Friday afternoon indicating that they are not satisfied with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association plans to address demographic and ethics problems that came to light in a Feb. 21 Los Angeles Times exposé — reforms that were recommended by the HFPA’s board on Monday, and authorized by its membership earlier on Thursday — leaving the future of the Golden Globe Awards in limbo.
“May 6 was the day the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) said the Golden Globes would detail its commitment to transformational change and would finally uproot the systemic and longstanding racism, misogyny and corruption widely reported as endemic to the HFPA and the Golden Globe Awards,” Tina Tchen, president and CEO of Time’s Up, shared in a statement. “Sadly, the list of ‘reforms’ adopted yesterday, and endorsed by NBCUniversal and Dick Clark Productions, are sorely lacking and hardly transformational. Instead, these measures ensure that the current membership of the HFPA will remain in the majority and that the next Golden Globe Awards will be decided with the same fundamental problems that have existed for years. The HFPA’s list of recommendations largely contains no specifics, no commitments to real accountability or change, and no real timeline to implement these changes. The HFPA’s proposed September 1 deadline for some — but not all — reforms comes well after the next award cycle will have started. And even its proposal to increase membership by 50% comes with no commitments that the decisions to admit new members will be made in an equitable and inclusive manner with full transparency and oversight.”
“Even more striking is the complete silence from the HFPA about reforms to the deeply-troubled nominations and awards process. This includes the absence of any commitment to ensure that the Golden Globe awards and categories are free from discriminatory criteria, that the practice of unprofessional, exclusive press conferences will end, or that voting members will perform the basic function of watching the nominated projects. The window-dressing platitudes adopted yesterday are neither the transformation that was promised nor what our creative community deserves. Any organization or sponsors that set themselves up to pass judgment on our vibrant community of creators and talent must do better.”
The PR firms, in their own statement, wrote: “We acknowledge the HFPA for defining the five foundational pillars — accountability, membership, inclusion, good governance/ethics and transparency — it must examine, interrogate and reform in order for the HFPA to manifest the transformative change necessary to thrive as an ethical, credible and respected institution in our industry.”
But, they went on, “We have specific concerns about the timeline for change as the traditional 2022 awards calendar approaches, lest we face another Golden Globes awards cycle and show under the existing problematic HFPA structure. The proposed September 1st deadline for hiring a Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, with no mention of a deadline for hiring the Chief Executive Officer, Chief Human Resources Officer and Chief Financial Officer, makes it impossible for necessary changes to happen in time to impact the 2022 Golden Globes cycle. In addition there has been no mention of the status of the HFPA’s General Counsel nor of the obvious need for a Chief Operating Officer. Lastly and more historically evidentiary, talent and content creators of color will not get a fair chance under this timeline.”
The PR firms emphasized, “There must be transparency about all recruitment processes and hiring decisions and the onboarding of these vital individuals must be completed well before the next HFPA season begins. Unless the Globes are to be delayed until 2023, the vetting and approval of all plan specifics and implementation guidelines, along with the seating of a new Board under new bylaws, must be accomplished without delay. This requires an explanation of the process to welcome non-HFPA members to serve on the Board and a full understanding of the drafting, oversight and vetting process of new bylaws. Similarly, membership goals and representation must be achieved more swiftly, so that new members do not remain in the minority for another year.”
Most pertinently, they stated: “We will continue to refrain from any HFPA sanctioned events, including press conferences, unless and until these issues are illuminated in detail with a firm commitment to a timeline that respects the looming 2022 season reality. We stand ready to collaborate with the HFPA to ensure that the next Golden Globes — be it in 2022 or 2023 — represents the values of our creative community. We are reminded of the HFPA’s 1943 motto, conceived by the original group of foreign journalists: ‘Unity Without Discrimination of Religion or Race.’ Seventy-eight years hence, your commitment to swift and deliberate action remains essential.”
It remains to be seen where the standoff goes from here. The HFPA’s broadcasting partners for the Golden Globes telecast, NBC and Dick Clark Productions, both endorsed the organization’s proposed reforms prior to the letters from Time’s Up and the PR firms, and NBC issued another statement after those letters were sent, doubling-down: “We believe that the plan presented charts a course for meaningful reform at the HFPA. We remain committed to encouraging the plan’s prompt implementation through productive conversations so that the HFPA can emerge a better and more inclusive organization.”
But without the participation of talent, there won’t be much of a telecast to speak of.
This whole saga began after the HFPA came under the microscope in the Feb. 21 Los Angeles Times piece which revealed that the organization counted zero Black journalists among its 87 members (now down to 86 after the April 20 expulsion of former president Philip Berk), among other demographic and ethics concerns. Time’s Up quickly launched its pressure campaign, which was amplified by numerous Hollywood A-listers via social media. The HFPA acknowledged that it needed to change in a written statement and during a brief segment on the Feb. 28 Globes telecast, and then on March 9 announced that it had retained a diversity consultant and a law firm to conduct an internal review.
This was not enough to tamp down concern on the part of Time’s Up and representatives of some of Hollywood’s leading personal PR firms, which began emailing with each other on March 9 and scheduled a March 10 meeting on Zoom.
On March 15, 104 PR firms — virtually every major one on both sides of the Atlantic, save for Sunshine Sachs, which represents the HFPA — signed on to an unprecedented missive. “We call on the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to swiftly manifest profound and lasting change to eradicate the longstanding exclusionary ethos and pervasive practice of discriminatory behavior, unprofessionalism, ethical impropriety and alleged financial corruption endemic to the HFPA,” the letter read in part. “We cannot advocate for our clients to participate in HFPA events or interviews as we await your explicit plans and timeline for transformational change.”
On Thursday, the HFPA’s membership voted on the proposal put forward by its board on Monday. Reportedly supported by all but 13 members, some of whom voted no, abstained or were absent, it calls for the admission of “at least 20 new members in 2021, with a specific focus on recruiting Black members,” and with “a goal of increasing the membership by 50% over the next 18 months.” It also eliminates the requirement that HFPA members must reside in Southern California, expanding eligibility to any qualified journalist living in the U.S. who works for a foreign outlet.
Additionally, it opens membership to journalists who work “in media beyond print”; eliminates the requirement that new members must be sponsored by existing members, as well as the cap of new members per year; and explicitly reaffirms that “there are no limitations on the number of members from each territory” of the world, something that the HFPA was recently accused of enforcing in a lawsuit filed by a journalist who had been denied admission to the group. (The lawsuit was dismissed.)
Henceforth, “all current members will be required to meet the same standards as incoming members for reaccreditation of their membership,” as well as to adhere to “a new code of conduct.” This code of conduct will mandate that members no longer accept promotional items and aims to better address the “structure of press travel” and “press conference procedures, including consulting with publicists.”
Additionally, the HFPA will “hire a professional management staff, including, but not limited to, a Chief Executive Officer, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, Chief Human Resources Officer, and Chief Financial Officer, with the goal of having the Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer in place by September 1, 2021.”