HFPA Accuses Golden Globes Producer of Improper Secret Deal with NBC

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The Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) has filed a legal response to Golden Globes producer Dick Clark Productions (dcp) request to dismiss a lawsuit over rights to the awards show. It charges that a six word phrase in an amendment to their 1993 contract has been used improperly to claim dcp has the right to produced the Globes in perpetuity as long as it stays on NBC.

The legal brief says that while dcp was negotiating with HFPA for the right to continue producing the show, it was secretly negotiating with NBC to extend the telecast for seven more years, based on its claim that as long as the show was on that network it would be the producer, with or without any further grant of permission from the HFPA. RELATED: NBC in Golden Globes waiting game as legal battles heat up.

The HFPA said it was “blindsided” when it found out last October what dcp was doing with NBC. “There was no sign that dcp had competitive negotiations with NBC, or that it even attempted to assess the value of the broadcast rights in the market to get the best deal possible.”

That was the trigger for HFPA to file its original lawsuit last November.

The suit blames Red Zone Capital Partners, which acquired dcp in 2007, for giving the prior contract “a brand new interpretation, completely at odds with the parties mutually shared understanding” of what the contract said.

The filing says dcp seized on six words in an amendment to the 1993 contract, but their claim that gives dcp “perpetual rights to HFPA’s primary asset is not believable.”

The filing points out over the years dcp had always come back to the HFPA for more options before it negotiated a new TV deal, but in this case acted without permission – while at the same time pretending it was negotiating a new deal with the HFPA.

The filing also says claims that the Globes pre-show and that all digital rights to the show belong to dcp are incorrect and inconsistent with the contract.

The brief says the early contracts with dcp were negotiated without proper legal representation in any case. “The 1993 amendment was received and signed by HFPA’s then president on the same day it was pitched by dcp and approved by the HFPA,” according to the filing.

In a novel defense, the  HFPA refutes claims by dcp that the non profit press group is a  “sophisticated” party because, says the new filing,  “English is the second language for most HFPA members who, by definition, are foreign.”

The filing also says that the current owners are far removed from those who negotiated the original contracts, led by Dick Clark, who no longer owns or runs the company. That is why the HFPA nearly a year before the contract was up with the 2011 show contacted dcp to discuss the impending end of the deal. “Because HFPA was dealing with dcp’s new owners, twice removed form those involved in 2001 (because the company was sold twice), it wanted to be abundantly clear about its expectations.”

The filing says the HFPA told dcp “in no uncertain words” that it did not have the right to negotiate a contract extension with NBC or anyone else without its permission. In fact, that is exactly what dcp was doing, which it now claims was its right.

The case resumes in federal court in downtown L.A. on Friday before Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank who is expected to rule on the dcp motion to dismiss, addressed in this filing to that motion, as well as a request to split off the breach of contract portion of the case which could lead to an accelerated trial on that specific action as soon as May.

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