The Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the embattled organization behind the Golden Globe Awards, has been methodically courting support from key Hollywood constituencies — studios and networks, publicists and philanthropic causes related to the entertainment industry — ahead of a return to NBC in 2023, possibly on Tuesday, Jan. 10.
In recent weeks, The Hollywood Reporter has learned, the leadership of the HFPA, an organization comprised of journalists and photographers for non-American media outlets, has been making the case to top officials at major studios and networks that the organization today no longer even resembles the one that was at the center of a firestorm just ahead of the 2021 Golden Globes, when a series of articles in the Los Angeles Times revealed that the HFPA at that time included zero Black people among its then 87 members and had engaged in unethical conduct and suspect financial practices.
In the nearly year-and-a-half since, the HFPA has indeed passed major reforms — among them, banning members from accepting gifts and removing a cap on new members, which enabled it to add 21 new members, six of them Black — with additional changes apparently on the way. (THR hears that the HFPA is close to adding to the voting rolls a chunk of journalists based outside of the Los Angeles area, although they may not be considered full members.)
But the situation is muddled by the fact that a considerable number of HFPA members voted against the changes, while a couple of others questioned the organization’s sincerity and resigned. (HFPA members have since been pressured to sign NDAs.)
The HFPA is also trying to navigate the sprawling community of publicists who serve as Hollywood’s gatekeepers to talent. After the Times exposé, a large contingent of publicists said they would boycott the HFPA until it made significant changes. Representatives of the publicists’ group and the HFPA have since had an ongoing dialogue, with the former seeking progress updates from the latter, until last week when, a publicist source says, the HFPA went radio silent. Around the same time, THR has learned, the HFPA began reaching out to a handful of publicists — including Larry Angrisani, Slate PR’s Simon Halls, Searchlight’s Melissa Holloway, Block-Korenbrot Public Relations’ Melody Korenbrot, Rogers & Cowan/PMK’s Arnold Robinson and Kovert Creative’s Danica Smith — to serve on an HFPA “PR advisory committee.”
It is unclear how the establishment of the latter group will impact the HFPA’s dealings with the former group, but several publicists say that the situation is indicative of a growing divide between those in their ranks who feel that the HFPA still has considerable work to do (such as eliminating members whose journalistic credentials are lacking) and others who believe that the time has come to move on and welcome back an awards show that boosts their films and talent (the Globes telecast is usually the highest-rated awards show of the film awards season prior to the Oscars).
Says one high-level studio flack, “We, like a number of other studios, feel that the HFPA has made substantial progress and has earned a second chance. And we are excited to meet and work with their new members.”
The HFPA has sought to foster goodwill in the community by continuing, even during this period of uncertainty about its future, to make major charitable contributions to a wide swath of industry-related causes. On Tuesday, it announced $4.5 million in new grants.
But it remains to be seen if any of this will make a difference with NBC, which has been the HFPA’s broadcasting partner since 1996, but which declined to air the Globes in 2022, declaring in a statement at the time, “We continue to believe that the HFPA is committed to meaningful reform. However, change of this magnitude takes time and work, and we feel strongly that the HFPA needs time to do it right.” The HFPA rubbed NBC and many others the wrong way by forging ahead with a ceremony on Jan. 9 anyway — which, in the end, wasn’t attended by any talent or broadcast in any way — and in March, Sunshine Sachs, the HFPA’s longtime PR firm, quit, following a D&I advisor and crisis PR advisor out the door.
Sources close to NBC indicate that the network is still deliberating about whether or not to bring back the Globes in 2023, but it has plenty of reasons to do so — possibly 60 million. Indeed, under an agreement struck in 2018, NBCUniversal committed to pay the HFPA and Dick Clark Productions $60 million a year for the right to broadcast the ceremony through 2026. (MRC, the owner of DCP, is a co-parent of THR through a joint venture with Penske Media titled P-MRC.) Plus, live award shows, while they may not attract the sort of ratings they once did, still draw bigger audiences than almost anything else on TV except for live sports, and NBC’s competitors each have at least one: the Grammys and Tonys air on CBS, and ABC broadcasts the Oscars, while the Emmys rotate between the Big Four broadcast networks.
If NBC wanted and was able to extricate itself from its Globes deal, an interesting alternative for the network would be the controversy-free SAG Awards, which also recognizes both film and TV work, and which is now actively looking for a new home, having been dropped by TBS and TNT. But that seems unlikely to happen.
THR hears that NBC, if it does air a 2023 Globes ceremony (which would be the Globes’ 80th), would probably do it on Tuesday, Jan. 10, rather than on a Sunday, as was custom prior to the pandemic. That’s because the first Sunday in January 2023 is New Year’s Day; the second is Jan. 8, which is the last day of the NFL’s regular season, which poses a conflict with NBC Sunday Night Football; and the third is Jan. 15, on which the Critics Choice Awards have already staked their claim.
The HFPA did not respond to a request for comment. NBC declined to comment.