If This Is a New Start for the Golden Globes, Why Are the Same People Voting?

The awards show is reorganizing as a for-profit enterprise, but the now-defunct HFPA is still supplying the voters

Golden Globe statues
The Golden Globes (Credit: Getty Images)

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is dead. Long live the Golden Globes.

That, at least, is the message from Dick Clark Productions and Todd Boehley’s private equity firm Elridge, which have acquired all “assets, rights and properties” of the Golden Globes in a deal announced on Monday that will result in what the press release referred to as the “winddown of the HFPA and its membership.”

But while this winddown, to use the unusual term slipped into the press release, will result in the dissolution of the 80-year-old HFPA, it won’t change who votes for the Golden Globes. It’ll only change who makes money from them.

The 95 current members of the HFPA, which has been under fire in recent years for its lack of diversity and its ethical lapses, have all been offered five-year deals to be employees of the new, for-profit organization that will run the Golden Globes, with an annual salary of $75,000 for activities related to the Globes. (If they don’t want to be a part of that organization, they can take $225,000 buyouts.)

An additional 215 international journalists, many from the FIPRESCI (International Federation of Film Critics) organization, are not HFPA members but were recruited earlier this year to give the Globes a larger and more credible voting body. Those journalists are also eligible to vote for the 81st Golden Globes, which will take place next January, though they won’t be paid if they do and they won’t receive a buyout if they don’t.

And if you’re wondering what’s in it for FIPRESCI members who will be giving the Globes credibility for free, you wouldn’t be the first.

The press release announcing the acquisition of the Golden Globes by Dick Clark Productions and Todd Boehly’s Eldridge Industries didn’t mention who would vote after the big winddown. But a Globes rep confirmed that it would be the current voters – the same people who voted earlier this year, and many of the ones who’d been voting when the industry finally decided that it didn’t want to support the HFPA anymore.

The fact that the show is keeping the same voters has been overlooked in much of the coverage of the changes, but it’s a central point of a reorganization that seems focused on the finances, not the actual process of handing out awards.  

And it’s a reorganization that leaves lots of questions unanswered. In 2021, for instance, in an attempt to get studios, networks and talent back on board, the HFPA announced a series of reforms, including a strengthened Code of Conduct that barred members from accepting free travel and gifts from companies whose films and TV shows they’re covering (and voting on). But with the organization being disbanded, it remains to be seen whether the for-profit Globes will hold its employees to the same code of conduct.  

TheWrap put that question to a representative for the Globes but has not received a response.

And when you throw in the fact that for-profit organizations are not bound by the same financial disclosure requirements as non-profits, it looks as if the new, “HFPA-less” Globes will in fact be significantly dependent on the participation of the same former HFPA members, only with less financial transparency and more nebulous guidelines.

You could argue that those voters have actually made pretty good choices over the past few years, but that’s not the point if this is being presented as a major Globes reboot.

Is the change to this new for-profit enterprise good enough to win back the trust of an entertainment industry that wasn’t sure it wanted to play the Globes game anymore? It depends, I suppose, on how important that brand is to studio and network marketers, and how badly they want an early-January awards show with name recognition to serve as a launching pad for the homestretch of Oscar nomination voting.

It’s also worth noting that commercial enterprises that want to make a profit are not known for keeping people on staff who don’t do much – so while the voters may have those five-year deals at $75,000 per year, it’s not hard to find people who expect that Boehly will cut the original members loose as soon as he can do so. Even that line in the press release, “the winddown of the HFPA and its membership” (italics mine), suggests that their time is limited.

In the meantime, Dick Clark Productions and its partners will be “pursu(ing) commercial opportunities for the Golden Globes across the board,” according to the press release, and hoping that next January’s show can move the needle in the right direction.

And then what? A gradual move toward a Globes that doesn’t depend on what’s left of the HFPA? If so, what’ll take its place? Other DCP awards shows use audience voting (the American Music Awards), professionals (Academy of Country Music Awards) and sales, airplay, streaming and social data (the Billboard Music Awards) to pick winners. But popularity contests won’t work as Oscar precursors, and all the film professionals already vote in their own awards shows.

The new Globes, which when it comes down to the voting process may not be so new after all, are teetering on a perilous edge and asking a big question of the entertainment industry: In this post-COVID era in which awards shows in general have lost much of their audience, just how desperate are you to have a Golden Globes show again? And at what price?        

Journalist and author Mark Harris, for years a savvy observer of awards season, tweeted on Monday, “I can’t imagine anyone who objected to the ethics and non-transparency of the old Globes wanting to go anywhere near this human-centipede boondoggle.”

But hey, what’s a boondoggle here and there at a time when awards season itself is threatened?

Goodbye, HFPA. See you on the circuit, HFPA members.