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Netflix cuts ties with Hollywood Foreign Press Association as co-CEO Ted Sarandos blasts group over diversity and inclusion


Netflix
has cut ties with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, the group behind the Golden Globe Awards, until it makes stronger commitments around diversity and inclusion, Deadline reported Friday.

In a letter to the HFPA, according to Deadline, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos blasted the group’s recent proposal for improving diversity among its ranks, saying Netflix will stop “any activities with your organization until more meaningful changes are made.”

“We know that you have many well-intentioned members who want real change — and that all of us have more work to do to create an equitable and inclusive industry,” Sarandos wrote, according to Deadline, adding: “But Netflix and many of the talent and creators we work with cannot ignore the HFPA’s collective failure to address these crucial issues with urgency and rigor.”

“We hear your concerns about the changes our association needs to make and want to assure you that we are working diligently on all of them,” HFPA president Ali Sar said in response to Netflix, according to a spokesperson.

“We can assure you that our plan reflects input from our supporters and critics alike, and we truly believe that our plan will drive meaningful reform and inclusion within our Association and in a way that the entire industry can be proud of. We are proud that our plan was overwhelmingly approved by more than 90 percent of the membership—there is no question the membership is embracing this opportunity,” Sar said, according to the spokesperson.

Netflix did not respond to a request for comment.

In February, an LA Times investigation revealed major financial and ethical lapses within the HFPA, as well as the fact that none of the group’s 87 members are Black, nor has it had any Black members in nearly two decades. A month later, more than 100 top publicists for Hollywood stars warned the HFPA that they would cut off the group’s access to their clients unless it made a “transformational change.”

In response to the growing backlash, the HFPA pledged to implement reforms by May 6. But just days before the self-imposed deadline, the LA Times reported that a conference call between HFPA’s diversity consultants and lawyers and the Hollywood publicists went off the rails due to the HFPA’s lack of progress.

Still, on Thursday, the HFPA announced that 75 of its 86 members voted for reforms aimed at helping expand the group’s membership, hiring an executive focused on DEI, and implementing other diversity initiatives.

But Netflix, which dominated the Golden Globes this year as the pandemic sent more viewers to streaming services, said those changes didn’t go far enough.

“Today’s vote is an important first step,” Sarandos told HFPA executives in the letter, according to Deadline. “However, we don’t believe these proposed new policies — particularly around the size and speed of membership growth — will tackle the HFPA’s systemic diversity and inclusion challenges, or the lack of clear standards for how your members should operate.”

Sar pushed back on some of Netflix’s characterizations of the HFPA’s planned changes, according to a spokesperson, saying that diversity and inclusion “is at the core of our reform plan” and that the group plans to expand membership by at least 50% within 18 months, not 36 months as Netflix alleged.

Sar also said HFPA is hoping — through its proposed changes and through continued conversations with publicists — to address concerns surrounding its use of press conferences, which critics have alleged unfairly influence which titles ultimately receive Golden Globe nominations.

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