Hollywood Reporter Parent Meddled in Explosive Story on NBC Chief, Insider Says (Exclusive)

WAXWORD

Parent company MRC has vast business interests with NBC, including producing the Golden Globe Awards and Billboard Music Awards

The Hollywood Reporter on Friday published an explosive story about NBC Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy shortly after inquiries from TheWrap about why THR parent company MRC, which has lucrative business dealings with NBC, had put the brakes on the article.

According to an individual with knowledge of the situation, the investigative piece by THR editor at large Kim Masters and West Coast TV editor Lesley Goldberg initially had been put on hold by MRC Managing Director Deanna Brown and co-CEOs Modi Wiczyk and Asif Satchu while lawyers weighed the implications of the reporting.

An MRC spokesperson told TheWrap: “We are proud of our investigative journalism, which requires a transparent, clearly defined legal review process that is essential to ensure the integrity of The Hollywood Reporter.” Masters did not respond to a request for comment.

An individual close to THR said that its legal department “officially” got the article for review on Thursday. But the other individual noted that the company’s lawyers have been engaged with the story for days, including with an attorney representing Paul Telegdy, Tom Clare. Clare did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the story, dozens of current and former NBC employees alleged that Telegdy “engaged in racist, sexist and homophobic behavior,” with one individual stating: “It was par for the course.” (In a statement, Telegdy told THR: “The nature of these allegations flies in the face of everything I stand for.”)

The story stems from complaints by actress Gabrielle Union, who filed a racial discrimination complaint against the network when she was a judge on the network’s “America’s Got Talent” last summer and accused Telegdy of threatening her. The network investigated Union’s accusations and in May cleared the show and its producers of wrongdoing after Union initially complained internally about racism.

NBC did not respond to a request for comment.

MRC, which began as a television production company, has vast business interests with NBC, including producing the Golden Globe Awards and Billboard Music Awards every year. Both of those contracts, produced by MRC’s Dick Clark Productions, are worth millions of dollars each. In addition to its TV and film production work, the company also owns media outlets like THR, Billboard and Vibe that consistently report on the industries in which it does business.

The insider said Wiczyk and Satchu were between a rock and a hard place with Masters’ story, afraid to run it and upset NBC and afraid to kill it and upset the THR newsroom. But another individual with knowledge of Wiczyk’s thinking said he was “not freaking out” and had “zero problem” with the story. This individual also denied that the story had been delayed due to the company’s business interests, insisting that it underwent the usual review process.

MRC’s conflicts of interest — owning an editorial outlet covering the entertainment industry while also producing significant entertainment content — previously led to clashes with editorial director Matt Belloni, who was abruptly fired in April. A few weeks later, Associated Press veteran Nekesa Mumbi Moody was named the outlet’s new editorial director.

An expert from the Poynter Institute, Kelly McBride, was brought in to help navigate these conflicts and a policy was devised wherein any article that could impact MRC’s business would be flagged to corporate leadership.

As TheWrap reported at the time, Belloni resisted attempts by Wiczyk and Satchu to either promote or protect movies or television programs made by MRC and struggled to maintain editorial integrity.

In one instance, Belloni defended to the CEOs a Hollywood Reporter scoop that “Knives Out,” an MRC-produced movie released by Lionsgate, would have a sequel. MRC was upset because the news was not ready to be released.

In another case, MRC wanted to promote its Hulu show “The Great” in a series of daily interviews with cast members during the Emmy voting period. Belloni pushed back against that idea, arguing that it would show favoritism and undermine the credibility of The Hollywood Reporter.

The article on Telegdy is now parked with Brown, though she does not have any formal editorial role. She “has been slow-walking and engaged multiple lawyers” on the article, said the individual with knowledge.

The company, formerly known as Media Rights Capital and then Valence Media until a rebranding earlier this month, is comprised of six divisions: MRC Data, MRC Film, MRC Non-Fiction, MRC Television, the newly named MRC Media & Info — which includes brands The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard and Vibe — and the newly established MRC Live & Alternative, which includes Dick Clark Productions.

Sharon Waxman

Sharon Waxman

Sharon Waxman, is the founder, CEO and Editor in Chief of TheWrap. She is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author, and was a Hollywood correspondent for The New York Times.



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