WarnerMedia has now joined the growing chorus of studios, streamers and talent damning the pace and scope of reform at the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Like powerhouses Netflix and Amazon this weekend, the home of Golden Globes heavyweight HBO has pulled the plug on all interaction with the insular group until “changes are implemented.”
“While we commend the HFPA membership’s approval of the plan to move towards radical reform, we don’t believe the plan goes far enough in addressing the breadth of our concerns, nor does your timeline capture the immediate need by which these issues should be addressed,” declared the top brass at the AT&T-owned giant in a letter sent to HFPA president Ali Sar yesterday.
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“WarnerMedia Studios and Networks will continue to refrain from direct engagement with the HFPA, including sanctioned press conferences and invitations to cover other industry events with talent, until these changes are implemented,” the unceremonious correspondence continues. “This includes work with HBO, HBO Max, Warner Bros. Pictures Group, Warner Bros. Television, TNT and TBS.”
Calling out HFPA members for grifting off studios during and outside of awards season and much, the letter makes it crystal that WarnerMedia don’t buy that the organization’s pledges to reform will come in time for the 2022 Globes and maybe even the 80th annual Globes in 2023.
Read the full WarnerMedia letter to the HFPA below
Coming just three days after Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos sent a Red Line letter of his own to the 86-member non-profit behind the annual Globes that basically spelled out a message of too little, too late, the May 9 missive from WarnerMedia was signed a Justice League of the company’s executives. WarnerMedia Studios and Networks Chair and CEO Ann Sarnoff was joined by HBO and HBO Max CCO Casey Bloys, WBTV chair Channing Dungey WB Pictures boss Toby Emmerich, TBS, TNT and truTV General Manager Brett Weitz, plus in-house Communication leader Johanna Fuentes, and Christy Haubegger, WarnerMedia’s Chief Inclusion Officer.
Because this was a direct message from the content chiefs and those who deal most directly with the HFPA, WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar did not sign the letter, I hear.
I also hear that the HFPA has not responded to WarnerMedia’s letter as of this morning. If they do, we will update this post.
Certainly, having lost Netflix, Amazon and now WarnerMedia, the pool from which the NBC broadcast Globes is shrinking fast and with star power significance.
At this year’s semi-virtual February 28 airing Golden Globes, WarnerMedia companies teamed for 13 nominations among Warner Bros Pictures, HBO and HBO Max. It won two overall: Daniel Kaluuya for Supporting Actor in Judas and the Black Messiah and Mark Ruffalo for Actor in a Television Motion Picture for I Know This Much Is True. In 2020, the company scored with wins for Warner Bros’ Joker and Joaquin Phoenix on the film side, and for Chernobyl and Succession in the TV races.
Specific to WarnerMedia, the past year has seen the almost universally acclaimed I May Destroy You from Michaela Cole totally snubbed by the Globes in nominations, as were talent from the genre busting Lovecraft Country. As the HFPA promised reform and tried to quell displeasure over revelations that the group lacked a single Black member and other aggrievances, some new, some old, emerged, Judas’ Kaluuya suffered the indignity backstage at the Oscars of being confused for one of the actors from One Night In Miami by a questioning HFPA member.
Things having been heading downhill in rapid motion since, even as the HFPA On May 6, around 75 of the insular HFPA’s 86 members voted for an inclusion and overhaul proposal the group’s board put forth at the beginning of this week. Among the line items contained in the approved reforms are a 50% increase in membership in the next 18 months, hiring of a CEO and other top governance positions (though no replacement for long term General Counsel/Chief Operating Officer George Goeckner is in the cards) and conduct and ethics measures. After the 78th Globes and before the latest vote, the HFPA saw racially offensive remarks from a former president and newly minted Diversity and Inclusion advisor Dr. Shaun Harper and high vaulted fix/Scandal inspiration Judy Smith both walk out in frustration last month.
This latest correspondence from WarnerMedia also now puts pressure on the likes of Disney, Fox, ViacomCBS and other studio and streamers who have yet to make public their severing of a relationship with the problematic, to put it politely, HFPA. However, if you were putting money on the table, bet pretty confidently that more corporate voices of displeasure are about to be raised.
“The work of ensuring equity and inclusion is never finished and something we all must work together to achieve,” the WarnerMedia top tier executives said in their letter. “We understand the challenges ahead for you, as we work towards diversifying our own executive and employee ranks. However, we call upon you to move with greater urgency.”
With increasing internal reservations, NBC are still maintaining a public stance of support for the HFPA’s reform move (they pay $60 million a year for the influential Globes). However, with the 2021-2022 award season gearing up and Time’s Up, leading PR firms, Netflix, Amazon Studios, past Globes winner Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson and now WarnerMedia all singing from the same critical book, the Comcast-owned net may be feeling that the Globes and the HFPA aren’t worth the trouble anymore.
READ THE FULL LETTER FROM WARNERMEDIA EXECS HERE:
As an organization, WarnerMedia is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion as moral and business imperatives, and we strive to be a force for good in our communities. As an industry, together with other production companies, studios, networks, guilds, unions and talent agencies, we all have a responsibility to ensure that our workforce, content and creative partners reflect the diversity of our society and the world around us. This also extends to the organizations with which we do business.
While we commend the HFPA membership’s approval of the plan to move towards radical reform, we don’t believe the plan goes far enough in addressing the breadth of our concerns, nor does your timeline capture the immediate need by which these issues should be addressed. WarnerMedia Studios and Networks will continue to refrain from direct engagement with the HFPA, including sanctioned press conferences and invitations to cover other industry events with talent, until these changes are implemented. This includes work with HBO, HBO Max, Warner Bros. Pictures Group, Warner Bros. Television, TNT and TBS.
The work of ensuring equity and inclusion is never finished and something we all must work together to achieve. We understand the challenges ahead for you, as we work towards diversifying our own executive and employee ranks. However, we call upon you to move with greater urgency. The currently planned 18-month timeline runs through the 2023 Golden Globes, which means the same voting body will be impacting the next two nomination and voting cycles. The HFPA has a membership of less than 90 journalists. Lasting and meaningful change to your membership goals could be achieved in under 18 months. The HFPA cannot accurately reflect the best of our industry until your membership expands to reflect more of the social, cultural and ethnic diversity that exists in the stories we tell and the creators with whom we work.
We’re also asking for a strong commitment to significant change in talent press conferences. We are keenly aware of how much harder we’ve had to lobby to secure press conferences for a number of Black performers and creators, representing unquestionably worthy content. This same work has often then gone unrecognized in your nomination and awards process. In addition, our teams have endured press conferences where our talent were asked racially insensitive, sexist and homophobic questions. For far too long, demands for perks, special favors and unprofessional requests have been made to our teams and to others across the industry. We regret that as an industry, we have complained, but largely tolerated this behavior until now.
Our talent and our staff deserve a professional environment while doing their jobs promoting our series and films. Therefore, we would also like to see the HFPA implement a specific and enforced code of conduct that includes zero tolerance for unwanted physical contact of all talent and staff. We recognize that this conduct is not representative of your full membership, but we need assurances that there will be timely, actionable next steps to discipline members who exhibit inappropriate behavior.
These matters deserve urgency, and the timeline you have proposed thus far does not inspire confidence that meaningful change will happen before two more seasons of voting are impacted. We welcome a discussion to address these issues with you and look forward to your response.
Ann Sarnoff, Chair and CEO, WarnerMedia Studios and Networks
Casey Bloys, Chief Content Officer, HBO and HBO Max
Toby Emmerich, Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group
Channing Dungey, Chairman, Warner Bros. Television Group
Brett Weitz, General Manager, TBS, TNT and truTV
Johanna Fuentes, Head of Global Communications, WarnerMedia Studios and Networks
Christy Haubegger, Chief Inclusion Officer, WarnerMedia
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