Golden Globes group faces mounting pressure from Netflix, Amazon and publicists to reform
One day after the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. voted to move ahead with a sweeping set of reforms, Time’s Up blasted the proposed changes as “window-dressing platitudes,” while a coalition of more than 100 publicity agencies said they will continue to withhold access to stars from the Golden Globes group.
The strong rebuke set off a remarkable cascade of criticism toward the embattled HFPA, plunging the group into further turmoil as it attempts to weather a crisis that has imperiled its awards show and its very existence. By Friday evening, two of awards season’s biggest power players — Netflix and Amazon Studios — distanced themselves from the organization, revealing that they would cut ties with the HFPA until it goes further in its plan to remake itself.
“Sadly, the list of ‘reforms’ adopted yesterday, and endorsed by NBCUniversal and Dick Clark Productions, are sorely lacking and hardly transformational,” Time’s Up President and Chief Executive Tina Tchen said in a statement. “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.”
In approving the reforms, the HFPA had hoped to move on from months of controversy that have dogged the group since the publication of a Feb. 21 Times investigation that detailed allegations of ethical lapses and financial improprieties and revealed that the 86-member organization of international journalists has no Black members.
A coalition of publicists representing many of the industry’s biggest stars issued an open letter in mid-March vowing to withhold access to their clients unless significant reforms were undertaken.
A Times investigation finds that the nonprofit HFPA regularly issues substantial payments to its members in ways that some experts say could skirt IRS guidelines.
On Friday, that same group said that its boycott of the HFPA would continue, cutting off the lifeblood of access that the organization depends on and raising serious questions about whether next year’s Golden Globe Awards will be able to go on next year as planned.
“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 publicists said in a statement. “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.”
Adding to the pressures on the HFPA, Netflix co-Chief Executive Ted Sarandos issued a letter to the group’s leadership committee Thursday after its vote, saying the company will stop working with the organization until more is done. News of the letter, confirmed by The Times, was first reported by Deadline.
“Today’s vote is an important first step,” Sarandos wrote. “However, 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.
“We know that you have many well-intentioned members who want real change — and that all of us have more work to do to create an equitable and inclusive industry,” Sarandos added. “But 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.”
An awards season powerhouse in both film and television, Netflix led all studios in both nominations and wins at this year’s Golden Globes. Since the controversy first erupted in late February, the streaming giant has been communicating its concerns to the HFPA and urging it to bring on hundreds more diverse new members and to clarify its ethical standards around awards campaigning, said a source close to the company.
Responding to Sarandos, HFPA President Ali Sar reiterated the association’s commitment to transformational reforms.
“We hear your concerns about the changes our association needs to make and want to assure you that we are working diligently on all of them,” Sar said in a letter to Sarandos. “We can assure you that our plan reflects input from our supporters and critics alike, and we truly believe that our plan will drive meaningful reform and inclusion within our Association and in a way that the entire industry can be proud of.”
Later Friday evening, Amazon Studios head Jennifer Salke stated that the streaming service, which won three Golden Globes this year, had also put its relationship with the HFPA on hold.
“We have not been working with the HFPA since these issues were first raised, and like the rest of the industry, we are awaiting a sincere and significant resolution before moving forward,” Salke said a statement.
Joining the chorus, actor Mark Ruffalo, who won a Golden Globe this year for his performance in the HBO limited series “I Know This Much Is True” and had been nominated three times earlier for the award, issued a statement via his publicist that criticized the HFPA’s proposed reforms as inadequate.
“It’s discouraging to see the HFPA, which has gained prominence and profited handsomely from their involvement with filmmakers and actors, resist the change that is being asked of them from many of the groups that have been most disenfranchised by their culture of secrecy and exclusion,” Ruffalo said. “Now is the time to step up and right the wrongs of the past. Honestly, as a recent winner of a Golden Globe, I cannot feel proud or happy about being a recipient of this award.”
Filmmaker Ava DuVernay, who directed “13th” and “When They See Us,” also was sharply critical. “What HFPA proposed protects them,” DuVernay wrote on Twitter. “No changes to board, staff or existing membership that fostered this diseased org. No change to the rules or wretched ‘conferences’ where they abuse artists. They think folks want that pitiful trophy so much that they’ll play ball. A mistake.”
DuVernay and TV producer Shonda Rhimes, who has also led criticism of the HFPA, each expressed support for the stance taken by Netflix, with which they each have a close relationship. “Once again, Netflix shows how it can and should be done,” Rhimes wrote on Twitter. “This is how to be the change.”
Also on Friday, GLAAD President and Chief Executive Sarah Kate Ellis said the group found the HFPA’s proposals wanting. “The reforms do not go far enough to ensure the organization 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,” Ellis wrote.
Rashad Robinson, president of the advocacy group Color of Change, which has allied with Time’s Up in pushing the HFPA to broaden its membership, also criticized the pace of reforms: “None of these changes will impact the next show on NBC,” he wrote on Twitter. “That’s unacceptable, bc the stakes are too high.”
NBC, which has aired the Globes since 1996, has publicly expressed support for the HFPA’s reforms, but with the start of next year’s awards season just a few months away, the continued criticism from some of Hollywood’s most powerful figures could increase pressure on the network to put the show on hiatus.
“We believe that the plan presented charts a course for meaningful reform at the HFPA,” NBC said in a statement. “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 declined to comment, but a person close to the group said it is “actively communicating with the publicists and other outside groups to open a dialogue and make sure that we are addressing their concerns as expeditiously as possible.”
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.
The HFPA’s proposed reforms — which include increasing the organization’s membership by 50% over the next 18 months, with a focus on recruiting Black members — have received qualified support from the National Assn. of Black Journalists.
“We are committed to monitoring implementation and helping HFPA do what it says it will do,” NABJ President Dorothy Tucker said. “Too many times organizations say they are going to do one thing in the diversity, equity and inclusion arena only to fall short of expectations. We will be vocal and proactive in our actions on the progress and, if necessary, the lack of progress the HFPA makes in bringing its plan to fruition.”
Dick Clark Productions, which partners with the HFPA in producing the Globes, has also been supportive of the HFPA’s planned reforms. A source at the company who was not authorized to speak publicly expressed hope that the organization will be given time to undertake changes.
“What is clear to me is that everyone wants more of a timeline,” the person said. “I think pressure from the publicists is good. ... But they do have to give the HFPA some time to write these bylaws and get them through.”
Times staff writer Stacy Perman contributed to this report.
Inside the business of entertainment
The Wide Shot brings you news, analysis and insights on everything from streaming wars to production — and what it all means for the future.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.