Golden Globes: Publicists Group Has ‘Concerns’ About HFPA Reform Plans

·7-min read

UPDATED: A group of more than 100 Hollywood publicity firms say they are concerned about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s recently released plans to overhaul the organization.

Time’s Up, GLAAD and Netflix were among entities who agree that the proposed changes may not go far enough or be able to be implemented fast enough. Mark Ruffalo also released a statement on Twitter, saying, “Now is the time to step up and right the wrongs of the past. Honestly, as the recent winner of a Golden Globe, I cannot feel proud or happy about being a recipient of this award.”

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“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,” reads a statement released by the group on Friday. “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.”

In a 70-3 vote on Thursday, the HFPA members approved a plan put forth by its board to radically overhaul the non-profit. The plan includes measures to increase the number of people of color in its ranks. The plan also includes new restrictions on gifts that the members could receive and payments for work on their committees.

Immediate plans include finding a vendor to set up a complaint line, hiring a search firm to compile a list of candidates to fill newly formed staff positions, identifying new members to increase membership by 50% in the next 18 months, creating a list of DEI consultants and retaining Ropes & Gray to facilitate the reforms.

The publicist group sent a letter to the HFPA on March 15 warning that that they have advised clients not to work with them unless the organization committed to serious reform.

“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, funded by Dick Clark Productions, MRC, NBCUniversal and Comcast,” the letter read.

NBC released a statement on the reform plans. “We believe that the plan presented charts a course for meaningful reform at the HFPA,” the company said. “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.”

The HFPA has long come under scrutiny for many of its practices. A Los Angeles Times report in February detailed and questioned the non-profit group compensation practices for the members involved in awards judging and other association functions. The HFPA for years has been routinely criticizing for taking part in lavish junkets and accepting other perks from studios and networks in the hunt for Golden Globe trophies.

Netflix confirmed that co-CEO Ted Sarandos had sent a letter to the HFPA’s leadership committee, reading in part, “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. Netflix and many of the talent and creators we work with cannot ignore the HFPA’s collective failure to address these crucial issues with urgency and rigor.”

Time’s Up Foundation president and CEO Tina Chen also responded to the proposed reforms, saying 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 Globes 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 come 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 Globes 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 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,” said the Time’s Up statement.

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis responded similarly to the HFPA, writing in a statement “The reforms announced on Thursday by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association do not go far enough to ensure the organization’s future integrity as a place where historically marginalized communities — including the LGBTQ community — feel welcomed; especially not in time for meaningful change to take place before the 2022 awards season. There is a lack of transparency and accountability which still has yet to be addressed. It’s not enough for the HFPA to just say that they are working towards having a certain number of Black members. It’s time for the HFPA and the Golden Globes to truly reflect the full intersectional diversity of Hollywood. GLAAD stands alongside all those who are calling for further and more rapid change, real inclusion, and true acceptance.”

Read the full statement from the publicists below:

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.

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.


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.

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.

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