Aiming to beat a self-imposed reform deadline and a Tinseltown firestorm, the board of the besieged Hollywood Foreign Press Association on Monday released a new plan to overhaul the 86-member nonprofit group behind the Golden Globes.
While no one has been hired yet and nothing really happens until a majority of the full membership ratifies the plan this summer, with help from Boston-based law firm Ropes & Gray, the HFPA is now promising again to bring “Black and other racially diverse journalists into our organization,” which currently lacks a single Black member.
They are also pledging a lot more, including adding 20 new members over the next year and increasing their total membership by 50% in the next two years. The HFPA is also looking for a Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer and self-described oversight board to help with “critical organizational reform.” Additionally, the suddenly ambitious 78-year-old outfit says it will change the way money changes hands internally, hold members accountable, limit board terms, and bring in “a professional management staff, including, but not limited to, a Chief Executive Officer, Chief Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer, Chief Human Resources Officer, and Chief Financial Officer.”
“We know that the past few months have presented many challenges for our members, and we appreciate all of the time and effort you have invested in this process thus far,” said an unsigned letter from the HFPA board to the group’s members, outlining the changes they propose. “We want to be clear – these outlined changes are just the first steps in the long journey ahead. We also know that in this existential moment for our association, change is difficult and sometimes scary.”
“The Board, as well as our outside partners, wholeheartedly endorse this reimagination of our organization,” the correspondence goes on to say. “We must meet this moment, knowing that if we join together in support, we can become a better organization and, with hard work, an example of diversity, transparency and accountability in the industry for others to follow, just as our founders imagined almost 80 years ago.”
Today’s announcement is not the first promise of a new direction from the HFPA. In fact, it is not even the first such declaration this year.
As furor grew from some of Hollywood’s top talent, an awkward trio of the group’s brass took to the stage at the February 28 semi-virtual Golden Globes ceremony on NBC swearing they would address the lack of Black members and more, if we just trusted them. Then, in early March, the still Sunshine Sachs-repped HFPA posted a long statement on social media unveiling the hiring of Dr. Shaun Harper, the executive director of the USC Race and Equity Center, as its “Strategic Diversity Advisor for the next five years” and more.
Two months ago, the HFPA asserted it would have something to show by May 6, which is in part why it made today’s move.
While those previous efforts were mostly smoke and missteps, this time around some powerful partners are clearly hoping things will work out better.
Comcast-owned NBC, which pays the HFPA about $60 million a year to broadcast the influential Globes, and ceremony producers dick clark productions, which successfully fought off a court battle with the HFPA several years ago, both today offered support to the so-called reimagining. This after what I hear has been weeks trying to nudge the group’s head out of the sand amidst internal strife and public shaming.
“HFPA’s proposed plan is an encouraging step in the right direction,” an NBCUniversal spokesperson told Deadline this afternoon in the first of a series of obviously coordinated responses. “It outlines the thorough reforms that are critical for our continued relationship, and we appreciate the commitment that it demonstrates by the association’s leadership. The organization’s swift adoption and meaningful execution of the plan in its entirety are essential for the Golden Globes to remain on NBC.”
“We are encouraged by the detailed and thorough nature of the plan unveiled today by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association,” dcp chimed in. “We are hopeful the members commit to this and the actions necessary to build a transparent and inclusive future, which will have a tremendous impact on the organization and the art they honor.”
Still, with whatever is to come next, it is going to be a steep climb for the HFPA to get back in Tinseltown’s good-ish graces. In just the past few months, the insular organization has been rocked by revelations for its lack of Black members, offensive and politically tone deaf emails from a former president, and the resignations last month of both Harper and Judy Smith, the miracle-working fixer who inspired Scandal.
Presuming the well-compensated HFPA knows the difference between their Claret and their Beaujolais, the international assembly does seem to have a talent for leaving a bad taste in the mouth of others. From NBC and dcp to Time’s Up, most of Hollywood’s top PR gurus, Oscar winner Daniel Kaluuya, and Oscar nominee Leslie Odom Jr, to name just a few of late, the organization has obstinately nearly bitten off the hands that literally feed them.
Now, if you are wondering when this newly minted HFPA may emerge, you’ll have to wait until at least July. That’s when the second of the group’s 2021 general meetings are scheduled. Amending the HFPA bylaws, which is a legal process as well as an administrative one, requires at least 2/3 of the current members to agree to the changes. The proposals will be formally introduced at the June gathering and then again a month later. Only after that will balloting actually take place.
How that vote goes is a roll of the dice, but the current board say they will resign en masse if the proposed changes fail …so there’s that.
Also, of note, among all the new hires and new management being floated, there is no direct mention of new General Counsel or Chief Operating Officer for the HFPA in Monday’s declaration. Both of those gigs have been held by ex-MPA top lawyer George Goeckner for several years.