WarnerMedia Joins HFPA Boycott Over Reforms: 'We Don't Believe the Plan Goes Far Enough'

Tim Baysinger

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

WarnerMedia is the latest Hollywood company to join the chorus of those refusing to work with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), arguing the beleaguered organization’s planned reforms are both too little and being implemented too slow.

“While we commend the HFPA membership’s approval of the plan to move towards radical reform, we don’t believe the plan goes far enough in addressing the breath of our concerns, nor does your timeline capture the immediate need by which these issues should be addressed,” the company wrote in a letter to HFPA president Ali Sar. “WarnerMedia Studios and Networks will continue to refrain from direct engagement with the HFPA, including sanctioned press conferences and invitations to cover other industry events with talent, until these changes are implemented.”

WarnerMedia is the third company to refuse to work with the HFPA in the wake of its months-long controversy over its lack of diversity (it was revealed in January the group has no Black members) and its history of snubbing the work of Black creators in awards seasons. The boycott covers HBO, HBO Max, Warner Bros. Pictures Group, Warner Bros. Television, TNT and TBS. 

Last week HFPA promised it would double the size of its membership, elect new board members and hire professional executives to lead the organization. The HFPA also said it would consider taking “serious measures” if the new reforms weren’t approved by the membership, including the current board resigning.

But that wasn’t enough for Netflix and Amazon. On Friday, Netflix was the first to say it would cease working with the HFPA, with Amazon Studios joining the boycott shortly after. Over the weekend, actress Scarlet Johansson urged her peers in Hollywood to “step back” from the group, blasting some of the group’s members for exhibiting “sexist” behavior and “remarks by certain HFPA members that bordered on sexual harassment” during press conferences.

WarnerMedia detailed numerous changes it wants to see from the HFPA, including making it easier to secure press conferences for its Black performers and creators (an individual with knowledge of the process told TheWrap HBO had to fight hard to get a press conference for Michaela Coel and her critically-adored drama “I May Destroy You”).

“In addition, our teams have endured press conferences where our talent were asked racially insensitive, sexist and homophobic questions. For far too long, demands for perks, special favors and unprofessional requests have been made to our teams and to others across the industry,” the letter continued.

During the Oscars, an HFPA member had to apologize to “Judas and the Black Messiah” star Daniel Kaluuya, who had just won a Best Supporting Actor award, for confusing him with another Black actor, Leslie Odom Jr.

“These matters deserve urgency, and the timeline you have proposed thus far does not inspire confidence that meaningful change will happen before two more seasons of voting are impacted. We welcome a discussion to address these issues with you and look forward to your response,” WarnerMedia concluded.

The full letter from WarnerMedia is below:

Dear Ali,

As an organization, WarnerMedia is committed to diversity, equity and inclusion as moral and business imperatives, and we strive to be a force for good in our communities. As an industry, together with other production companies, studios, networks, guilds, unions and talent agencies, we all have a responsibility to ensure that our workforce, content and creative partners reflect the diversity of our society and the world around us. This also extends to the organizations with which we do business. 

While we commend the HFPA membership’s approval of the plan to move towards radical reform, we don’t believe the plan goes far enough in addressing the breath of our concerns, nor does your timeline capture the immediate need by which these issues should be addressed. WarnerMedia Studios and Networks will continue to refrain from direct engagement with the HFPA, including sanctioned press conferences and invitations to cover other industry events with talent, until these changes are implemented. This includes work with HBO, HBO Max, Warner Bros. Pictures Group, Warner Bros. Television, TNT and TBS. 

The work of ensuring equity and inclusion is never finished and something we all must work together to achieve. We understand the challenges ahead for you, as we work towards diversifying our own executive and employee ranks. However, we call upon you to move with greater urgency. The currently planned 18-month timeline runs through the 2023 Golden Globes, which means the same voting body will be impacting the next two nomination and voting cycles. The HFPA has a membership of less than 90 journalists. Lasting and meaningful change to your membership goals could be achieved in under 18 months. The HFPA cannot accurately reflect the best of our industry until your membership expands to reflect more of the social, cultural and ethnic diversity that exists in the stories we tell and the creators with whom we work.

We’re also asking for a strong commitment to significant change in talent press conferences. We are keenly aware of how much harder we’ve had to lobby to secure press conferences for a number of Black performers and creators, representing unquestionably worthy content. This same work has often then gone unrecognized in your nomination and awards process. In addition, our teams have endured press conferences where our talent were asked racially insensitive, sexist and homophobic questions. For far too long, demands for perks, special favors and unprofessional requests have been made to our teams and to others across the industry. We regret that as an industry, we have complained, but largely tolerated this behavior until now.

Our talent and our staff deserve a professional environment while doing their jobs promoting our series and films. Therefore, we would also like to see the HFPA implement a specific and enforced code of conduct that includes zero tolerance for unwanted physical contact of all talent and staff. We recognize that this conduct is not representative of your full membership, but we need assurances that there will be timely, actionable next steps to discipline members who exhibit inappropriate behavior.

These matters deserve urgency, and the timeline you have proposed thus far does not inspire confidence that meaningful change will happen before two more seasons of voting are impacted. We welcome a discussion to address these issues with you and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

Ann Sarnoff, Chair and CEO, WarnerMedia Studios and Networks
Casey Bloys, Chief Content Officer, HBO and HBO Max
Toby Emmerich, Chairman, Warner Bros. Pictures Group
Channing Dungey, Chairman, Warner Bros. Television Group
Brett Weitz, General Manager, TBS, TNT and truTV
Johanna Fuentes, Head of Global Communications, WarnerMedia Studios and Networks
Christy Haubegger, Chief Inclusion Officer, WarnerMedia

Source: Read Full Article