Freelance journalist Dominic Patten is covering the trial for Deadline:
Former Dick Clark Productions head Fran la Maina is expected to be the only witness on the stand again today after a very long opening session in the trial between the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and Dick Clark Productions over who has the broadcast rights to the Golden Globes. We have learned this lawsuit hinges on twelve words which are to be found in a 1993 amendment to the then decade-long working relationship between the HFPA and DCP.
The amendment gives DCP the right to produce and license the Globes past 1997 for “Eight (8) additional, consecutive, exclusive and irrevocable options to acquire the exclusive right to produce a live television broadcast for each of the years 1998 through and including 2005, and for any extensions, renewals, substitutions or modifications of the NBC agreement.” That amendment, drafted by DCP, was signed by then HFPA President Mirjana Van Blaricom in late September 1993 as the production company was completing a deal with NBC that would see the Globes return to network TV in 1996. La Maina was on the stand Tuesday for over four hours of questioning from HFPA lawyer Dan Petrocelli and said that amendment was where DCP received the initial right to negotiate the show in perpetuity with NBC – the very right which HFPA now seeks to regain for itself.
In his opening statement, DCP attorney Marty Katz today asserted that back in 1983 the scandal-plagued Golden Globes were “damaged goods” when DCP first became involved. “Getting the show back on a network and maintaining it on a network was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.” That’s why DCP in 2010 signed the lucrative long-term deal with NBC keeping the Globes on the network until 2018, Katz stated that “this case is about HFPA saying my client is not entitled to their half of the $20 million annually.”
Petrocelli, in his opening statement, claimed DCP “have no ongoing rights to the Golden Globes. They belong to the HFPA.” And he maintained that the 1993 perpetuity amendment “prevents the rights from being sold to the highest bidder… It defies common sense.”
La Maina unequivocally repeated that his dealings on the NBC contract had been above board. “I don’t think I mislead the HFPA,” he said on the stand. La Maina later in the day said his first pass at a deal with NBC was for broadcast to the Globes for only a decade. “And no longer than that, correct?” Petrocelli asked. That’s when La Maina allowed the possibility that DCP at an early stage in its talks did not always view the NBC deal as open-ended. He negotiated with NBC for a 3-year commitment to air the Globes with “rolling options” for another three years, and another four years after that, if the network were happy with the annual award show.
What also emerged is that, as early as the summer of 1993 just as DCP was locking down the agreement with NBC, the producer already had concerns that the HFPA might go around it sooner or later to negotiate directly with broadcasters. La Maina told the court he was talking to Van Blaricom about making sure DCP wasn’t “cut out” of the deal down the line. “I said that if we were successful in getting the deal with NBC, we [DCP] should be locked to the agreement.” La Maina then told the court that Van Blaricom “said she understood and she agreed. That is what I recall.”
Again and again, Petrocelli tried to portray that Van Blaricom was acting far beyond her HFPA authority by signing that DCP contract extension amendment without taking it to the HFPA Board for a vote. But La Maina recalled that the amendment was discussed at an HFPA Board meeting at the Beverly Hilton on September 22, 1993. While noting he was aware of “lots of disagreement” within the HFPA about it, La Maina also stated that “there was nothing at all that made me think she wasn’t authorized to deal with DCP for HFPA… She was a businesswoman.” However Petrocelli read from a transcript of that Board meeting where Van Blaricom assured other Board members concerned about the possible NBC-DCP deal that “Dick Clark is us. We share everything with them… Their signing is like us signing.”
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