The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the embattled organization behind the Golden Globe Awards, has passed a sweeping set of reforms that it hopes will appease those who have effectively boycotted the organization in the aftermath of a Feb. 21 Los Angeles Times exposé about the organization’s demographics and conduct.
Time’s Up and a coalition of more than 100 PR firms on both sides of the Atlantic led a pressure campaign that resulted in talent, studios and networks saying they would not work with the HFPA until meaningful change was enacted. And NBC, the HFPA’s longtime broadcasting partner on the Globes, said it will not air the ceremony in early 2022.
The slate of new bylaws, which were presented to the organization’s 84 members by its board back in May, had to secure the support of at least two-thirds of the membership — or 56 members — in order to pass. The board had threatened to resign if the members did not vote yes. The vote took place Wednesday night and was certified by Ernst & Young.
“Three months ago, we made a promise to commit to transformational change, and with this vote we kept the last and most significant promise in reimagining the HFPA and our role in the industry,” HFPA board president Ali Sar said in a statement. “All of these promised reforms can serve as industry benchmarks and allow us to once again partner meaningfully with Hollywood moving forward.”
As a result of the vote, the board will meet Thursday and set the date for elections to choose a new board, which will comprise 12 HFPA members and three non-members. The organization has also posted to its website an application through which any journalist who meets the new membership criteria can apply to join the group. The newly passed measure calls for the admission of “at least 20 new members in 2021, with a specific focus on recruiting Black members,” and with “a goal of increasing the membership by 50 percent over the next 18 months.” Under the new bylaws, incoming members will be selected by a credentials committee that will now consist of five non-HFPA members, three HFPA members and the board president.
NBC responded to the reforms in a statement Thursday: “We’re encouraged by the passage of the amended bylaws. This marks a positive step forward and signals the HFPA’s willingness to do the work necessary for meaningful change.”
Globes producer Dick Clark Productions added: “We applaud the adoption of new bylaws, and the important policy revisions over the last few months, as the HFPA strives for reform. We look forward to seeing continued urgency, dedication and positive change in order to create a more diverse, equitable, inclusive and transparent future.”
The HFPA is opening itself up to a larger pool of candidates by dropping its SoCal residency requirement and expanding eligibility to any qualified journalist living in the U.S. who works for a foreign publication, including “in media beyond print”; eliminating the “sponsorship requirement” for new members; and removing restrictions on the number of members who can be admitted per year, while also explicitly affirming that “there are no limitations on the number of members from each territory,” something that the HFPA was recently accused of enforcing in a lawsuit filed by a journalist who had been denied admission to the group. (The lawsuit was dismissed.)
Per the new bylaws, there will also be a “revision of membership eligibility and reaccreditation criteria,” and “all current members will be required to meet the same standards as incoming members for reaccreditation of their membership.” Starting on Friday, all current members will have 15 days to apply for reaccreditation as members, and will have to show a greater level of journalistic output than ever before.
And, henceforth, members will have to adhere to a stricter code of conduct, portions of which were already approved prior to Wednesday’s vote, including a ban on members accepting gifts. (The HFPA has long been accused of effectively accepting “bribes” — in the form of expensive gifts and travel — in return for votes.)
It remains to be seen if those boycotting the HFPA will be satisfied enough with the reforms to resume business with the organization. The most likely scenario, according to conversations with publicists whose firms were part of the coalition that led the boycott, is that PR firms will continue to discourage talent from participating in HFPA events unless and until the organization actually implements the changes that it has now approved, especially adding Black journalists to its ranks.
“These new bylaws bring accountability, inclusion and transparency within our association, and today’s vote is a testament to the dedication and commitment of our members to reflect, educate themselves, and build a better organization,” HFPA vp Helen Hoehne said in a statement. “But we know the hard work starts now, and we invite our partners throughout the industry to join us in our mission to bring Hollywood to the world in a more inclusive and diverse manner.”
The HFPA will now also have to decide if it wants to hold a vote to determine Golden Globe nominees and winners, even though the Globes won’t be telecast this awards season. Even some PR firms seem receptive to that idea, particularly given the number of musicals in Oscar contention this year, which could use a boost from the Globes’ musical (or comedy) categories.
(DCP is a division of MRC, which is a co-owner of The Hollywood Reporter through a joint venture with Penske Media titled P-MRC.)
Aug. 5, 9:50 a.m. Updated to include statements from NBC and Dick Clark Productions.