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Golden Globes Unveils Reforms Aimed at Addressing Diversity Crisis

The group behind the Golden Globe Awards announced new measures on Monday aimed at increasing the number of Black members and people of color within its organization, as well as instituting restrictions on the gifts its voters can accept and the payment they receive for committee work.

The moves come as the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the small group of journalists who award the annual honors, finds itself in a public relations crisis, one that threatens to destroy its relationship with the A-list talent that makes its telecast “appointment viewing” and secures the group a lucrative television contract.

The HFPA, which has fewer than 90 members, said it will admit 20 new members in 2021, with a specific focus on recruiting Black members. It will increase the membership by 50% over the next 18 months, with a focus on recruiting members from underrepresented group. It’s unclear if the new measures will be enough to quell the threat the group faces

“These past few months have been difficult for us all, and we appreciate your understanding and patience through this transformative period in our industry. For the past 60 days we have worked hard to come up with a plan of action – culling ideas from the members as well as outside entities – to present a cohesive, comprehensive proposal,” the HFPA’s board wrote in a letter announcing the changes. “We have engaged in much- needed, deep introspection with the help and guidance of our outside advisors, experts in diversity and inclusion, and our media partners. Together, we have created a roadmap for transformational change in our organization.”

The HFPA has been in a defensive posture since a February report in the Los Angeles Times revealed that none of its 87 members were Black. The report also drew attention to the group’s “culture of corruption,” one that saw entertainment companies ply members with hotel stays, dinners, and trips in order to curry favor for projects they hoped would get nominations.

In response, more than 100 public relations firms, including such heavy hitters as 42 West, ID, The Lede Company, and Rogers & Cowan/PMK, threatened to cut off access to their clients unless reforms were implemented.

It’s unclear how these organizations will greet the announcement. A few key constituents seemed to give their seal of approval, however. Dick Clark Productions, the producer of the telecast, and NBCUniversal, the company that airs the show, issued statements praising the moves, but suggesting that they wanted to make sure the reforms were implemented.

“We are encouraged by the detailed and thorough nature of the plan unveiled today by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association,” DCP said. “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.”

“HFPA’s proposed plan is an encouraging step in the right direction,” NBCUniversal said. “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.”

The HFPA, which has been accused of being overly exclusive and clubby, said it will open its membership to more journalists, including ones who work in media aside from print, as well as eliminate the requirement requiring that members sponsor applicants. They will also remove restrictions on the number of members admitted per year, involve third parties in the process of determining who gets accepted, and eliminate the
South California residency requirement to enable any journalist living in the U.S. who work for a foreign publication to join.

It’s been a bruising few weeks for the HFPA as it has sought to contain the fallout from the crisis over its lack of diversity. Last month, the group expelled Philip Berk, a former 8-term HFPA president, after he sent an email to members email quoting an article that called the Black Lives Matter organization a “racist hate movement.” Berk had previously been accused of sexually assaulting the actor Brendan Fraser, but was allowed to remain a member after the HFPA investigated the incident and determined it was a joke.

The HFPA said it will hire a chief diversity, equity & inclusion officer, as well as establish an independent review committee of “racially and ethnically diverse members who will advise the Board and oversee critical organizational reform.”

Even before the latest crisis, the HFPA has been accused of a number of ethical lapses in the past. In 2011, the HFPA’s former publicist Michael Russell sued the organization, accusing its members of engaging in a “payola” scheme, while the group’s lack of journalistic output, as well as its penchant for recognizing the likes of “Burlesque” and Pia Zadora have raised questions about its seriousness of purpose and susceptibility to studio influence.

In its letter to members, the HFPA’s board said it viewed the changes as part of a “reimagination of our organization.”

“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,” the board wrote.

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