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In the continued absence of a detailed plan from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to address its diversity and ethical issues, Time’s Up has released a lengthy outline of recommendations, starting with a total overhaul of the group. (Three hours later, the HFPA announced the names of the diversity advisor and outside counsel it has hired to review its practices.)
“The measures laid out below are the start of the real work that needs to be urgently implemented to achieve the ‘transformational change’ you have promised,” wrote the workplace equity foundation in a public memo addressed to the HFPA and its partners in producing and presenting the Golden Globe Awards—Dick Clark Productions, NBCUniversal and Comcast.
The Time’s Up recommendations are sweeping and ambitious and begin with calling for the resignation of the entire existing HFPA membership. Current members may reapply after one year under new application criteria, which would require at least five years of “credible” journalism experience and 30 published (broadcast, print, online and/or radio) pieces of coverage from the last five years (the current criteria is 24 from the past three years). Lifetime membership should be abolished, declared Time’s Up, and members need to publish at least 10 pieces of coverage (up from six) per calendar year to retain voting rights and reapply for the organization every 10 years.
In order to “represent the full diversity of global entertainment journalists,” Time’s Up recommends that the HFPA roster, which currently stands at 87, expand to at least 300 – a mark that the nonprofit says should be “easily met” given its recommended lifting of the restriction that members must be based in Los Angeles. To remedy the frequent complaint (including in recent antitrust lawsuits) that members block the admission of other journalists who work in the same geographic territory, Time’s Up recommends recusal in those situations and the appointment of independent outside counsel—HFPA has retained Ropes & Gray—to review and approve all of this year’s applicants. And in the interest of full transparency, Time’s Up calls for a public disclosure of the HFPA’s membership ranks (including country representation and demographic background) each year.
The retention of Ropes & Gray (alongside Dr. Shaun Harper as strategic diversity advisor) preemptively satisfies the Time’s Up call for HFPA leadership to identify independent outside counsel to implement reform. However, the rest of the nonprofit’s demands will be harder to swallow: The completely new HFPA membership should elect a completely new board, which will then hire completely new management.
Time’s Up has also weighed in on the HFPA’s long history of fuzzy ethical practices, most recently detailed in a Los Angeles Times investigation two weeks ago, with respect to earning perks and outright compensation as an awards body. The demand is a blanket ban on all payments, gifts, favors, covered expenses—an ask that would put an end to such lucrative schemes as a French excursion hosted by Paramount Network (whose critically middling series Emily in Paris then received two Globes nominations) and a budget that saw HFPA members receiving a collective $1.929 million for committee service. (On the other hand, the Time’s Up moratorium would also seem to prohibit the receipt of any swag, which studios and networks routinely send to all journalists to promote their content.)
Time’s Up, which in its opening statement explains that it has chosen to weigh in because it is “an organization born in the entertainment industry with a mission to ensure safe, fair and dignified work for all,” also admonishes the HFPA against unprofessional behavior including autograph requests and demanding personal contact with talent—practices that have for a long time been considered part of the organization’s raison d’etre.
In an effort to dampen the Golden Globes’ perceived “outsized influence on later awards,” Time’s Up demands that the ceremony take place after nominations for the Academy Awards have closed. The organization also is calling on the HFPA and NBCUniversal to eliminate exclusive HFPA press conferences, and for members to prove they have watched at least 80 percent of nominated projects before casting their final votes (“There can be no more stories of not showing up to the screenings of artists of color,” Time’s Up writes).
While calling for consistency in how film and television projects are classified for Golden Globes consideration, Time’s Up also calls for the abolishment of the HFPA’s ability to change a project’s submitted classification (for example, from musical/comedy to drama) by a two-thirds membership vote. To be fair to the HFPA, that process has been applied in the past as a corrective to studios who seek to game their odds by submitting in less-competitive categories.
On March 6, the HFPA issued a four-slide statement on social media declaring its intention to reform, starting with the hiring of a diversity expert and an independent counsel among “initial steps we will take over the next 60 days.”
Time’s Up is holding the organization to that statement. “We look forward to hearing your commitments by your designated May 6 deadline,” the nonprofit wrote today.
The Golden Globe Awards ceremony is produced by Dick Clark Productions, a division of MRC, which is a co-owner of The Hollywood Reporter through a joint venture with Penske Media titled P-MRC.
Read the full letter below.
March 9, 2021
ATTN: Hollywood Foreign Press Association, Dick Clark Productions, NBCUniversal, and Comcast
As an organization born in the entertainment industry with a mission to ensure safe, fair, and dignified work for all, we are writing with a set of recommendations for how the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) – funded and enabled by Dick Clark Productions, NBCUniversal, and Comcast – can rid itself of the institutional racism, sexism, disrespect, alleged corrupt financial dealings, and other unethical practices that respected news outlets have documented and reported for years.
These changes must be transparent for all to see, and action taken quickly, so that a new HFPA can be in place well in advance of the start of the 2022 awards cycle. The measures laid out below are the start of the real work that needs to be urgently implemented to achieve the “transformational change” you have promised.
MEMBERSHIP + GOVERNANCE
Immediate change in the current management and board must be outlined. The existing management and board of HFPA have already demonstrated that they do not understand these issues. However, we recognize the need to have corporate governance mechanisms in place to implement reforms quickly. To address this, HFPA must outline and commit to a plan to move to an entirely new board that will hire new management. This plan should be announced immediately and include the following:
- The current management and board must immediately empower outside independent counsel to implement changes to membership criteria, bylaws, and policies, and select new members for HFPA.
- This outside independent counsel will then oversee the election of an entirely new board by the newly constituted membership.
- The new board will then hire new management.
- While this process is taking place, actions by the existing board and management must be overseen and approved by the outside independent counsel.
All existing members of the HFPA must resign and can reapply for membership under the new criteria after one year.
Membership criteria must be reformed. The insular country club membership criteria and process must fundamentally change, including a dramatic expansion of the number of members under new criteria:
- In order to qualify for membership and remain in good standing:
- The applicant must be registered with the Motion Picture Association in the international directory for at least one year prior to their application.
- The applicant may reside in any location.
- The applicant must have at least five years of credible journalistic experience and provide proof of at least 30 pieces of published coverage (broadcast, print, online, and/or radio) from within the last five years.
- In order to remain in good standing with the organization, members must publish at least 10 pieces of coverage (broadcast, print, online, and/or radio) per calendar year to retain voting eligibility.
The number of HFPA members must expand to a minimum of 300, in order to represent the full diversity of global entertainment journalists. This minimum should be easily met given the removal of prior exclusionary criteria and voting process.
Applicants for this year will be reviewed and approved by independent outside counsel. After this year, the HFPA will implement a transparent process for voting on membership nominees and will require that any members with a potential conflict, such as a nominee who is also a journalist in the same territory as an existing member, must be recused from voting on that nominee.
The HFPA will publicly disclose the names, country representation, and the diversity demographics of its membership at the close of this year’s membership process and every year thereafter.
Lifetime memberships will no longer exist. New members will have voting rights for 10 years, after which they will need to reapply for membership.
ETHICS & SAFETY PROTECTIONS
The HFPA must develop and publish anti-harassment, anti-bullying, and anti discrimination policies that will provide protections to employees, members, partners, contractors, and participants in all HFPA events, including the Golden Globes.
- This should include multiple methods for reporting violations, a process for fair, thorough and independent investigations, and a range of penalties for any violations, including dismissal from the HFPA.
The whistleblower process referenced in the HFPA’s statement must include the ability to make confidential reports about violations of the above policies as well as violations of any the HFPA policies.
The HFPA must develop and publish ethics policies to govern its own members and leadership, including but not limited to:
- A ban on members of the HFPA receiving payment from anyone, including the HFPA, for participating in the HFPA, including participating in decision-making regarding awards
- Members may not accept any gifts, favors, or consideration of any kind, regardless of its value based on their HFPA membership
- Members must pay for all of their own expenses, including but not limited to travel costs to festivals, junkets, premieres, set visits, and other events
- Members must engage in a professional manner, which includes not asking for autographs, not requesting personal cell phone numbers of filmmakers and talent, and not bullying and/or harassing – sexually or otherwise – members of the industry
NOMINATIONS AND AWARDS
The HFPA must adopt, publish, and enforce strict regulations governing the conduct of HFPA members, content distributors, publicists, and others, concerning the campaign boundaries for promotion of eligible films and T.V. shows that closely mirror comparable events (such as AMPAS). This includes screenings, special events, (e)mails, lobbying, among other efforts. Reporting violations of these regulations should be included in the whistleblower process.
The existing categories for awards and criteria for inclusion in those categories must be reviewed to eliminate any discriminatory criteria and new rules must be enforced with consistency.
- There must be consistency applied to the categorization of films and T.V. series. The HFPA must relinquish its ability to change any award entry by a vote of two-thirds or more. If any changes to a submission are necessary for clerical errors or are suggestions by the HFPA, final changes must be approved by the original submitter.
- For this year, as the reforms in membership and leadership are taking place, review of the categories and the nominations process will be overseen by an outside, independent industry expert or group of experts.
- After this year, the HFPA must transparently report on its categories, its criteria, and its decision-making process for nominations.
The HFPA will forgo exclusive HFPA press conferences. Simultaneously, NBCUniversal must commit to no longer organizing exclusive HFPA press conferences.
Members must be required to make every effort possible to attend a filmmaker’s screening. There can be no more stories of not showing up to the screenings of artists of color.
In order to participate in final voting, HFPA members must certify that they’ve watched at least 80% of the nominated projects.
The date of the Golden Globes must not occur during the pre-nomination window of the Academy Awards. The timing of the Golden Globes as, not only the first major award show, but coming even before nominations are made for the Oscars, has given the Globes an outsized influence on later awards and exacerbated the effects of the institutional racism and sexism of the Globes. This can be minimized by moving the schedule for the Globes, starting with 2022, as schedules are rearranged post-pandemic.
The issues with the HFPA and the Golden Globes are not new, yet have gone unaddressed by the HFPA, Dick Clark Productions, NBCUniversal, and Comcast for years. It is long past time now, in 2021, to boldly address change and to make the 2022 Golden Globes fundamentally different.
We recognize change of this magnitude is ambitious. But fans, artists, and executives alike are watching and waiting for your commitment to the values we all seek to represent inside the industry and on behalf of its achievements to the world.
We look forward to hearing your commitments by your designated May 6 deadline.
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