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Hollywood Foreign Press Association To Vote On Reforms Under Pressure From Publicists

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

This Thursday, the association that awards the Golden Globes is set to vote on reforms after more than a hundred heavy-hitting Hollywood publicists threatened to stop doing business with the group. The reforms would fundamentally change the way the Hollywood Foreign Press Association does business.

STACY PERMAN: It's a big question whether that's going to happen. And there's a lot of people waiting to see. It's not just the publicists and Time's Up and these advocacy groups but NBC, which broadcasts the show, and Dick Clark Productions, which produces the show.

CORNISH: That's Stacy Perman, a staff writer at the LA Times who detailed years of unethical and possibly illegal conduct in an investigation of the HFPA. She spoke with us earlier today, and I asked her about some of the conduct in question.

PERMAN: They ran the gamut from issues of sexism and racism and homophobia. Two that I can mention is - one publicist said that they had an actor - a mature actor - and one of the members asked them, do you still have sex at your age? And in another situation, an actor came out, and they asked him if he was going to be filing for bankruptcy again. I mean, these are questions that are inappropriate in any form and certainly have nothing to do with the project that they're there to talk about and promote. But more important and perhaps more damaging, they described that the HFPA would snub clients - those clients, particularly if they were people of color if the projects they represented were led by people of color or non-A-listers.

CORNISH: So why is this so significant?

PERMAN: So first of all, in order to get a nomination - a Golden Globe nomination, you need to get in front of the HFPA, and that means one of their sanctioned screenings and press conferences. So if you're not going to get their attention, you're not going to get a nomination. And a nomination - it's become a huge marketing tool in the industry, which translates to attention for the projects, and it translates to box office, which means money. Talent themselves, you know, with a nomination or a win on their hand can use that, you know, when they're leveraging their next deal, so it's part of the Hollywood ecosystem.

CORNISH: Based on your reporting, what do you think are some of the obstacles for the organization right now? I mean, what are the challenges here?

PERMAN: Well, the challenges are that they've enjoyed this cozy relationship. They have been insulated from their own behavior for, you know, a number of years. It's been an open secret in Hollywood. I think their biggest obstacle is themselves. I mean, if you look at the composition of the group, you have a number of members who I would call reformers, who've been agitating for change and haven't had much luck from the inside. And then you have probably even more members who are happy with the way things are. Many of them are not active journalists. This is a source of income for them.

You know, around the issue of diversity, that's been contentious. A number of them believe that because they represent countries from around the world, they are diverse. They don't seem to understand the racism issue. I mean, one of the points in our reporting is after the Globes, after they made these announcements that they would focus on diversity, we found that last year, in the wake of George Floyd's murder and the Black Lives Matter movement, they rejected the idea of bringing on board a diversity consultant back then. One of the reasons were some of them felt they were diverse enough. They didn't understand.

CORNISH: Right. And for context for people, they don't have a Black member, right?

PERMAN: Right. That was one of the big findings in our reporting, along with, you know, financial and ethical lapses, that they had no Black members. And that really created an outrage in Hollywood.

CORNISH: Why do you think that the Hollywood Foreign Press Association is coming in for this level of scrutiny?

PERMAN: Well, I think for a few reasons. I think, you know, for it to be 2021 and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to be so far behind and tone deaf on the issue is a problem. But I think also, the stories that we tell are important. They're a reflection of who we are. And the Golden Globes, and the HFPA behind them, have become an arbiter of culture and deciding what projects get attention, who's worthy of this attention. And when you only put that attention on a very narrow group, you are excluding a number of voices and stories and reflections. And that's just not where we're at.

CORNISH: Before I let you go, what happens next? When can we expect to see them speak next? Do they have any kind of deadline to hit?

PERMAN: Well, on Thursday, the members are supposed to vote in principle of whether they're going to move forward on the proposed changes that the law firm has put before them. And if that happens, if they vote yes, then they will vote formally in July. And there'll be some sweeping changes. But there is a lot of questions around whether they will vote yes. And if they do, what happens next?

CORNISH: That Stacy Perman, staff writer at the LA Times.

Thanks so much for your time.

PERMAN: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.