A member of the elusive group behind the Golden Globes has gone on the record about the way the organisation works – following a slew of accusations that votes can easily be influenced and that it prohibits new members from joining.
Husam Asi, a BBC Cinematic presenter, is a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), which organises and votes for the awards.
He told Sky News the claims were unfounded and “mostly stem from jealously” among journalists who do not get the same access to stars, or invitations to trips and parties as HFPA members.
Last week, an investigation by the LA Times claimed HFPA members were “routinely granted exclusive access to Hollywood power players, invited to junkets in exotic locales, put up in five-star hotels and, as Globes nominations near, lavished with gifts, dinners and star-studded parties”.
When asked if such access to Hollywood’s top talent and invites to glamourous parties and dinners swayed HFPA members or coloured their votes, Mr Asi told Sky News: “I personally was never affected by those.”
Mr Asi, who works in LA as a presenter and producer, acknowledged there is a need for more transparency around the organisation, its members and the selection process.
But he said the problem was industry wide – and questioned why Oscar members are not criticised for enjoying similar perks.
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The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has fewer than 90 members, and critics say this makes it easier to influence.
Members are famously hard to get hold of, with only a handful willing to speak anonymously to the LA Times when the latest allegations emerged.
Kjersti Flaa, a Norwegian entertainment journalist denied membership to the HFPA, has a pending lawsuit accusing it of “institutionalising a culture of corruption”.
She told Sky News her case relates to two areas: “anti-competition” and how the HFPA has “monopolised entertainment journalism” in LA.
Ms Flaa is also challenging them with regards to “the fair procedure” of how journalists are appointed members.
She said the HFPA tried to portray her as a “bad person and a disgruntled journalist” – but since filing the lawsuit, she claims other journalists have come forward with similar experiences.
“It’s kind of a relief for me to see that it’s not only me and my colleagues that have been treated badly, it’s all over the place,” she said.
Ms Flaa added that “everyone’s afraid of retaliation”, which is why it’s been kept “under the lid for so long”.
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The Golden Globes ceremony, though sometimes mocked for its self-congratulatory and boozy ceremonies, has become one of the most influential in the world.
As the first event in the annual awards season, it sets the tone for the highly prestigious BAFTAs and Oscars that follow. Yet each year, the nominations seem to cause a stir – with eyebrows raised at seemingly unpredictable and left-field choices and omissions.
Last year, there was disbelief that no female directors met the cut. Although three women have been nominated this year, allegations that the Globes are out of touch on other fronts have been raised once again.
It’s been revealed the HFPA has no black members – a point the organisation has now vowed to change immediately. It told the LA Times this week: “We are fully committed to ensuring our membership is reflective of the communities around the world who love film, TV and the artists inspiring and educating them.”
In a statement to Sky News, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association said it was common for entertainment journalists around the world to be invited to set visits, premieres and press. However, it also said “the notion that these visits have any influence over nominees for the Golden Globes is absurd and is strictly prohibited by our policies”.
Critic and BAFTA member Jason Solomons has experience running awards ceremonies and told Sky News awards systems are “gameable” and are “open to strategy” – adding: “They’re political. They can be influenced quite easily.”
Mr Solomons ran the Critics’ Circle awards in London and said there is always “an element of trading around this time of years to get big names to come to your red carpet or big awards ceremonies”.
He also told Sky News that reports of studios trying to woo voters were nothing new and were part and parcel of the industry: “If you’re a big entertainment company with a big budget who can influence those things, you’re going to try and do it if it’s within the rules.”
The Golden Globes ceremony itself will be quite different this year due to the pandemic. The party atmosphere will be replaced by a bicoastal Zoom fest presented by Tina Fey in New York and Amy Poehler in LA.