Apparently there was a 2022 edition of the Golden Globes (co-hosted by the perennially annoying, pot-is-not-a-personality, Snoop Dogg), but you couldn’t watch it. Long-time broadcaster NBC refused to show the awards, standing in ‘solidarity’ with the fleet of stars and studios who were boycotting the ceremony due to controversies plaguing the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
Diversity, or a lack thereof, was the main issue for an organisation supposedly representing the global press. The year before, of the 87-strong panel from 55 countries, none were black, while standout, African-American-led films from 2020, including Da 5 Bloods and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, failed to receive even a nomination. On top of this came a corruption scandal – exposed by a Los Angeles Times investigation – that rocked the awards show, exposing how members of the HFPA pocketed handy sums and glamorous perks in return for favourable votes.
Neither diversity nor corruption were new issues for the HFPA, but with Hollywood under the microscope for its shady past and present, the irreverent little brother to the Academy Awards now found itself out in the cold. NBC’s decision not to televise the awards was not only a major blow to legitimacy of the HFPA, but cut the organisation off from its biggest source of cash. In the previous fiscal year, the deal with NBC brought in $27.4 million.
Fear not, however, for the Golden Globes are back! The wonderful thing about performative politics is how quickly it ends when there’s money to be made. A year on from the boycott, NBC have reunited with the HFPA, signing a one-year deal to broadcast the awards on their main channel, as well as using it as a flagship show to try and entice customers to their new streaming service, Peacock. NBC refused to comment on the details of the deal.
To be fair to the Golden Globes, some things have changed. For one, Chelsea FC’s new owner Todd Boehly has also acquired the HFPA since the last go around – surely this year’s awards can’t go any worse than the America billionaire’s foray into soccer?
Then there’s a fixed salary for all HFPA members, now 96 of them. Instead of the shady, unknown dealings of a tax-exempt, non-profit company, the organisation has restructured as for-profit, with each journalist earning $75,000 a year to “vote on nominations and winners, write content for the organisation’s website and organise materials for the awards show and group’s history,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Where, before, members could be pampered with gifts and jet across the globe for luxurious junkets, there is now a ban on all presents for HFPA members as well as significant curbs on travel.
Another major development, aimed at diversifying the awards, is the addition of 103 international non-member voters. Despite the wider geographical reach, these voters will not be paid and will not be full-members, creating a two-tier system of votes.
Other recent changes to the HFPA include a newly implemented code of conduct, new bylaws and a new hotline for reporting misconduct. The group also hired its first chief diversity officer and admitted 21 new members, six of whom are Black.
Stacy Perman was one of two LA Times journalists who led the initial investigation into HFPA malpractice. Speaking about the recent reform, ahead of the ceremony, Perman said: “For some, yes, they see [the changes] as a move in the right direction, but there is also a group of publicists and talent who are sceptical. For instance, it was great that they added 21 new members last year, but this year they didn’t open it up to new members, they didn’t take applications. They added 103 international non-member voters and that definitely expanded their diversity and geographical composition, but people had questions about, ‘Who were these journalists?’ and why they created two classes of voters.
“There hasn’t been the same old exclusive access, parties and campaigning to my knowledge,” Perman continued. “They largely disappeared and the fact that that hasn’t become a big part of the dynamics says that people still reserve some questions.”
Speaking about the changes from the HFPA’s perspective, Boehly said: “We had the combination of the business model that was changing, challenged governance and a sense of power, which ultimately resulted in the catastrophe that we all witnessed. It took a crisis in order to make changes.
“Now by making [members] not reliant on press conferences, I take away the kind of conflicts of interest that were embedded in the organisation that might have created the opportunity to be swayed by things other than just being authentic and having real integrity.”
Boehly added he believed the Golden Globes would become less “reliant on the existing members,” with the HFPA planning to expand both their voting pool and their global presence. The goal, he said, is to establish what he called “events around the world under the Golden Globes brand.”
While Boehly argues that a fixed salary makes members more accountable and professional, critics of the new system claim that the money makes journalists beholden to the will of the HFPA. “It makes you wonder if the HFPA has an agenda,” Kelly McBride, senior vice president of the Poynter Institute said. “$75,000 is a fair amount of influence. Anytime journalists get paid not by journalists, the question is what are they getting paid for and if influence is not being bought.”
When the Golden Globes ceremony does return, it’s still not fully known what the celebrity attendance will be like. Brendan Fraser, nominated for his performance in The Whale, announced earlier this year that he will be boycotting the awards after he was groped by the former HFPA head, Philip Berk, in 2003.
“Hollywood is timid, nobody wants to put their hand up first,” said Perman on potential attendance. “They want to see what other people are doing. I think there will be some hold out.”
Equally, she noted the importance the Golden Globes could still hold. “When you dangle an award in front of somebody, it’s very hard to turn that down. I think there will be parts of the industry that want to see this move forward because box office has been lousy.”