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If the Hollywood Foreign Press Association had paid attention to the #OscarsSoWhite scandal that engulfed the Academy Awards and gotten its house in order over the five years since, it might have dodged the bullets that felled its 2022 Golden Globe Awards telecast.
Instead, on May 10, less than three months after a Feb. 21 Los Angeles Times article caused an uproar by revealing that there are zero Black journalists among the HFPA’s 87 (now 86) members, and alleging that in recent years the 78-year-old organization — made up of SoCal journalists for foreign outlets — conducted itself in ethically and financially shady ways for a nonprofit, NBC, the HFPA’s longtime broadcasting partner on the Globes, announced that it will not air the Globes ceremony — if there even is one — in 2022.
The HFPA had sought to stave off this worst-case scenario by passing a sweeping set of reforms May 6, with a “specific focus on recruiting Black members” and a “goal of increasing the membership by 50 percent over the next 18 months.”
Though its game plan was quickly endorsed by NBC and Globes producer Dick Clark Productions, the fact that it was to take effect “over the next 18 months” was not fast enough for workplace equity organization Time’s Up, more than 100 PR firms, Netflix, Amazon and WarnerMedia, all of which said that they would not work with the HFPA unless and until further change actually was enacted. (Time’s Up president Tina Tchen summed up the sentiment, noting the “entertainment industry has a responsibility to their audiences — both onscreen and off.”)
Stars weighed in as well: Scarlett Johansson and recent Globe winner Mark Ruffalo issued harsh statements, and Tom Cruise returned the three Golden Globe statuettes he has won.
NBC was forced to reevaluate its position. “We continue to believe that the HFPA is committed to meaningful reform,” the network said in its latest statement, on May 10. “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.”
What are the Globes without a TV platform? This is not the HFPA’s first time having to confront that question. In 1968, the FCC found that NBC had “substantially misled the public as to the basis on which [Golden Globe] winners were chosen and the procedures followed in choosing them,” prompting the network to drop the show.
Off the air from 1969 to 1972, it was then syndicated from 1973 to 1977, back on NBC in 1978, off the air in 1979, syndicated again in 1980 and then it aired on CBS in 1981 — just in time for the infamous Pia Zadora “New Star of the Year” scandal in 1982, after which the Globes were dropped by CBS and began working with DCP to rebuild. (MRC, the owner of DCP, is a co-parent of The Hollywood Reporter through a joint venture with Penske Media titled P-MRC.) The show wound up in late night syndication and on TBS for the next few years before NBC began airing it again in 1996.
Regardless of whether the Globes aired on a broadcast network, the HFPA continued to announce nominees and winners each year and to hold pared-down ceremonies. The group could adopt that approach in 2022, but for now the organization is holding its cards close to the vest — members who normally talk to press are on strict lockdown. It also offered a measured response to NBC’s decision, accompanied by a detailed timeline for action: “Regardless of the next airdate of the Golden Globes, implementing transformational changes as quickly — and as thoughtfully — as possible remains the top priority for our organization. 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.”
One reason the Globes have survived numerous prior scandals — with some of the constituencies that are openly critical today silently playing along — and could survive this tumultuous period, too, is that they have traditionally offered Oscar-contending studios and talent the largest promotional platform that they will have en route to the Academy Awards. Indeed, the Globes are the second most-watched awards show of the film awards season. (The caveat is that the Globes — as well as the Oscars — drew record-low ratings in 2021, with 6.91 million viewers, a 62 percent drop in total viewers and a 68 percent drop in the 18-to-49 demo year-over-year.)
Another reason the HFPA may have cause to be hopeful? NBCUniversal signed an eight-year extension with the HFPA and DCP in 2018, calling for the network to pay $60 million a year for rights to broadcast the Globes. The full contract has not been made public, so it is unclear if NBCU has to pay up regardless of whether it chooses to actually air the Globes. But if NBCU cannot extricate itself from the deal — which it may or may not wish to do — it has great incentive to work with the HFPA to make the Globes viable once again.
This story first appeared in the May 12 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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