So, has the Hollywood Foreign Press Association done enough to appease the publicists? That’s the question hanging over the Golden Globes after the H.F.P.A. announced a new crop of 21 members on Friday that’s about 30 percent Black.
Regular readers know my take on this one: Since coming under fire for its odd practices and lack of Black members in January, the H.F.P.A. has reformed its membership process, enacted anti-perks and -graft policies, ousted legendary bonehead Phil Berk, and generally set about doing exactly what has been asked of them. Can this silly group have its silly awards show back now? An awards show that, incidentally, provides jobs for thousands and a valuable promotional platform for Hollywood movies and TV shows?
That’s apparently up to a group of militant talent publicists, led by Kelly Bush, Cindi Berger and Marcel Pariseau (all of whom run P.R. firms with very few Black publicists, it has been noted). They teamed with Time’s Up—yes, hilariously, the same Time’s Up whose board resigned after it’s leadership was revealed to be helping Andrew Cuomo fight harassment claims—to push for a full boycott against the H.F.P.A. When Netflix and others signed on, NBC canceled the 2022 Globes telecast, and that’s where we are today.
I’m told that the H.F.P.A. has been meeting with less aggressive publicists lately, winning support that may help neutralize the more militant wing, whose actual agenda always seemed to me to be less about diversity and more about ending the kooky H.F.P.A. press conferences. Those Q&A events, which are required for Globes consideration, and sometimes feature bizarre or even offensive questions, are nonetheless one of the few media venues that modern talent publicists don’t control, so naturally the flacks want to eliminate them. Anyone who cares about press freedom—including these studios and streamers that are, you know, in the media business—should be against that effort, regardless of what they think of the H.F.P.A.
No doubt raising new concerns is the appointment on Friday (conveniently announced just after the diverse members reveal) of Todd Boehly, owner of the Globes producer formerly known as Dick Clark Productions, as interim C.E.O. of the H.F.P.A. Boehly is a white, male, billionaire hedge funder with a financial interest in the Globes—not exactly the picture of reform and independence that the H.F.P.A. needs these days. (A big disclosure here: Boehly owned THR for many of the years I worked there, and he was always great to me personally and professionally.)
The alarm I’m hearing in the awards community about potential bias and cronyism is real. Boehly has an incentive to make decisions that benefit Dick Clark, for instance. And the film and TV divisions of the production-finance company MRC, also owned by Boehly, should probably recuse its shows and movies from Globes consideration while Boehly is in this role. Last thing the H.F.P.A. needs is a perception of favoritism with such a huge microscope on the organization.
But that said, I’m told the plan is for Boehly to serve only briefly, until a suitable permanent C.E.O. can be found. (They’ve been trying.) And is it such a bad thing to have a professional manager with a huge stake running things? Dick Clark’s conundrum over the years has been that it produces the Globes telecast but has no control over the H.F.P.A. or its self-sabotaging practices. Now it does. Boehly clearly has an incentive to fix things for the benefit of all stakeholders, including everyone who benefits from the Globes returning to NBC in 2023. Some no-B.S. oversight is probably long overdue.
Knowing Todd, the last thing he’s craving is public attention. He just knows that MRC without a thriving Golden Globes is simply a less valuable asset, and things have spun out of control. This seems like a financial salvage operation when the rest of his managers couldn’t get it done.
Will it work? Let’s see what the publicists do next.