Hollywood Foreign Press Association Under Fire for Slow Response to Its Systemic Problems

The HFPA has had a week from hell. First, Time’s Up slammed HFPA reforms as “window-dressing platitudes” and more than 100 PR firms reiterated their concerns. Then, in industry-shaking news, just three days later, NBC canceled the broadcast of the 2022 Golden Globes, saying the HFPA must first address its systemic problems. If that wasn't enough, Tom Cruise returned his three Golden Globe trophies in protest.

Here’s the overview of the backlash.

NBC Canceling Golden Globes 2022

Over the HFPA’s nearly eight-decade history, it has resisted many scandals, lawsuits, and criticism of its membership. Some of its secrets came to light before the 78th Golden Globes ceremony on Feb. 28, 2021. The Los Angeles Times published an expose on Feb. 21 revealing that the group has no Black members, and detailing allegations of cronyism and favor-trading.

NBC released the following statement on May 10:

We continue to believe that the HFPA is committed to meaningful reform. However, change of this magnitude takes time and work, and we feel strongly that the HFPA needs time to do it right. As such, NBC will not air the 2022 Golden Globes. Assuming the organization executes on its plan, we are hopeful we will be in a position to air the show in January 2023.

According to Deadline, it is not clear whether NBC will be paying the HFPA the $60 million annual fee for the 2022 right to air the Globes, which is produced by dick clark productions (dcp). NBCUniversal signed a new eight-year deal with the HFPA and dcp in 2018 to continue its long-term broadcasting of the ceremony until 2026 with the increased fee.

WarnerMedia, Netflix, and Amazon Pull the Plug on All Interactions with the HFPA Until “Changes are Implemented”

A growing number of studios and streamers have stopped working relationships with the HFPA.

On May 6, after approximately 75 of the HFPA’s 86 members voted for an inclusion and overhaul proposal, the co-CEO Of Netflix, Ted Sarandos, penned a letter to the HFPA:

Today’s vote is an important first step. However, 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. So we’re stopping any activities with your organization until more meaningful changes are made.

Three days later, WarnerMedia, the AT&T-owned giant, issued a similar letter to HFPA president Ali Sar:

While we commend the HFPA membership’s approval of the plan to move towards radical reform, we don’t believe the plan goes far enough in addressing the breadth of our concerns, nor does your timeline capture the immediate need by which these issues should be addressed.

WarnerMedia Studios and Networks will refrain from direct engagement with the HFPA, including work with HBO, HBO Max, Warner Bros. Pictures Group, Warner Bros. Television, TNT, and TBS.”

Amazon Studios also joined the growing list of organizations that have stated they will not work with the HFPA.

“We have not been working with the HFPA since these issues were first raised, and like the rest of the industry, we are awaiting a sincere and significant resolution before moving forward,” said a spokesperson for Amazon Studios in a statement.

The HFPA’s power is shrinking fast during this upheaval.

Celebrities Express Frustration and Step Back from the HFPA

On May 10, A-lister Tom Cruise returned his three Globes - Best Actor prize he won for Jerry Maguirex, the Best Actor prize he won for Born on the Fourth of July, and the Best Supporting Actor prize he won for Magnolia.

This raises the specter that HFPA’s reception area might soon be filled with returned trophies.

Cruise’s act of protest follows harsh criticism of the group from other celebrities, including Scarlett Johansson and Mark Ruffalo.

On May 7, Mark Ruffalo, a three-time Oscar nominee, released a statement to Deadline:

It’s discouraging to see the HFPA, which has gained prominence and profited handsomely from their involvement with filmmakers and actors, resist the change that is being asked of them from many of the groups that have been most disenfranchised by their culture of secrecy and exclusion. Now is the time to step up and right the wrongs of the past. Honestly, as a recent winner of a Golden Globe [which he won for his dual role in HBO’s I Know This Much Is True], I cannot feel proud or happy about being a recipient of this award.

The day after, Scarlett Johansson, joined the outcry against the HFPA:

As an actor promoting a film, one is expected to participate in awards season by attending press conferences as well as awards shows. In the past, this has often meant facing sexist questions and remarks by certain HFPA members that bordered on sexual harassment. It is the exact reason why I, for many years, refused to participate in their conferences. The HFPA is an organization that was legitimized by the likes of Harvey Weinstein to amass momentum for Academy recognition, and the industry followed suit. Unless there is necessary fundamental reform within the organization, I believe it is time that we take a step back from the HFPA and focus on the importance and strength of unity within our unions and the industry as a whole.

On May 7, Time’s Up president Tina Tchen slammed the HFPA’s reforms as “window-dressing platitudes.”

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.

More than 100 global PR firms joined her in expressing their concerns.

Will the HFPA commit to any serious systemic changes? Only time will tell, but it seems like that may be the only viable option that they have

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