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HFPA members vote in favor of proposed reforms. Will it be enough to save the Golden Globes?

Three people stand on the stage at the Golden Globes Awards.
Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. Vice President Helen Hoehne, left, board chair Meher Tatna and President Ali Sar at the 78th Golden Globe Awards on Feb. 28.
(NBC)

Two months after committing to “transformational change,” members of the embattled Hollywood Foreign Press Assn., the tiny but powerful group of international journalists that hands out the Golden Globe Awards, voted Thursday to move forward with sweeping reforms proposed by its board earlier this week.

The vote via Zoom by the group’s members came as the HFPA reached a self-imposed deadline to reveal its plans to address a wide range of issues raised by a Feb. 21 Times investigation, including the group’s lack of any Black members along with alleged ethical lapses and financial improprieties. A majority of the 86 members voted in favor of the proposed reforms.

“Today’s overwhelming vote to reform the Association reaffirms our commitment to change,” said HFPA President Ali Sar in a statement. “That’s why we’ve already taken some action that will allow us to make swift progress....We remain dedicated to becoming a better organization and an example of diversity, transparency and accountability in the industry.”

On Monday, the HFPA board — in consultation with the law firm Ropes & Gray, which had been brought on to audit its practices — outlined a series of major reforms, including increasing its ranks by 50% over the next 18 months, overhauling its leadership structure and membership criteria and re-evaluating some of its journalistic practices.

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With the future of the Globes hanging in the balance, the vote in favor of moving ahead with reforms pulled the HFPA back from what many in Hollywood saw as the brink of potential extinction.

After months of controversy and a string of missteps and setbacks for the organization, including the unexpected departure of a diversity consultant brought on to help navigate the crisis, the HFPA’s vote was closely watched across Hollywood. Despite longstanding criticisms of the group, the Globes remains one of the industry’s most important and highly rated awards shows and studios and networks pour millions of dollars into wooing members of the HFPA every year in hopes of scoring nominations and wins.

NBC, which has aired the Globes since 1996, said in a statement Monday that the network’s continued relationship with the HFPA was contingent on its “swift adoption and meaningful execution of the plan in its entirety.” A person close to NBC declined to comment Thursday but said the network was encouraged by the vote.

Dick Clark Productions, which produces the Golden Globes, said it was pleased with the plan. “It’s a big step in the right direction,” the company said. “The external advisors and many advocacy groups who have come to the table for an open dialogue are a vital part of the reimagination of the organization as we all march toward a more inclusive and transparent future.”

Joining advocacy groups — including Time’s Up and Color of Change, which have been pushing the HFPA to undertake major reforms — a coalition of more than 100 publicity agencies has been withholding access to their star clients for nearly two months, access that represents the lifeblood of the HFPA. The organization’s own board had vowed to resign if the reforms were rejected by its membership.

After a Times investigation, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. vowed to make sweeping changes, but the group behind the Golden Globes has struggled along the way.

Still, the path forward for the group remains unclear. Over the coming weeks, the HFPA will need to codify and approve a number of major alterations to its bylaws, from its criteria for membership to the composition of its board to the structure of committees from which many members draw income. Details regarding some of the more thorny issues, including whether to end board compensation and payments to members for serving on those committees, have yet to be determined. A final formal vote on the changes is expected in July.

One publicist who signed onto a joint letter in March calling for reforms was skeptical that the HFPA, which vowed to clean up its act after previous scandals, is serious about change.

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“Trust is earned, and if they begin the process in good faith, maybe there will be a future,” said the publicist, who was not authorized to comment. “But there is still so much we don’t know and because we’ve all lost trust in them over the years, they’re going to have to show us.”

Indeed, while some within the group have argued for reforms for years, others have steadfastly resisted significant changes, and the requirement of a two-thirds vote to approve changes to the organization’s bylaws has created a steep barrier to reforms. Faced with widespread criticism over the HFPA’s lack of Black members, some members expressed indignation, arguing that the organization, which includes people from countries around the world, has been unfairly branded as racist.

One current reform-minded member was hopeful. “If this can be implemented, then we have a shot,” said the member, who declined to speak on the record out of fear of retaliation from others in the group. “The problem is that we had rules and regulations before, but they were not followed. It always depended on who is in charge and who is friends with whom.”

Additionally, many members are determined to safeguard the perks the HFPA has afforded them, insiders say. With relatively few members working full time for major overseas outlets, others fear they may have difficulty maintaining their membership if it tightens accreditation requirements.

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With the group behind the Golden Globes in crisis, here’s a playbill of the key actors in the drama that threatens the existence of the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.

With movie theaters reopening and the kickoff to next year’s awards season a few months away, pressure is mounting to resolve the situation . Given the difficulty of enacting the kind of major changes that many have been demanding, another publicist involved in the push for reforms suggested that NBC should put the show on hiatus to give the HFPA more time to remake itself.

“I’m not sure how they are going to have a 2022 Globes, to tell you the truth. That’s where our heads are at,” said this publicist. “The smartest and most responsible and ethical thing to do is put it on hold. Everybody would applaud that move. That is taking true accountability.”


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