May 8, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

NBC and DCP call for ouster of former HFPA president

NBC and Dick Clark Productions, the broadcast network and producing partner of the Golden Globes, have asked the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to expel its former president Phil Berk over an email he sent calling Black Lives Matter a “hate movement.”

The move follows a Times report that South African born Phil Berk, a current member and eight-term HFPA president, sent an email Sunday criticizing Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors. The post touched off a firestorm among many of the organization’s members.

In the email, Berk, shared a post that called BLM a “racist hate movement” and described Cullors as “the self-proclaimed ‘trained Marxist.’” It was sent out to the association’s members, its staff and the group’s general counsel and chief operating officer, Gregory Goeckner.

In an internal email sent by DCP, the company told employees, “We unequivocally condemn the actions and words of a member of the HFPA. We have called upon the board to take swift and decisive action. We also indicated that this response should serve as an example of how they intend to act on member behavior that violates their recent commitment to reform and improve racial equality. We have been working for months with the organization to guide and push them toward meaningful change. While we had remained hopeful about progress, this is a very real reminder that there are members who don’t support this work. That is unacceptable.”

In a public statement, the company said, “We stand in solidarity with our Black colleagues, artists, journalists and executives who have been hurt or overlooked by the HFPA. We are disgusted by the racist rhetoric disseminated by a member yesterday. We were encouraged by the very strong statements the HFPA previously made around improving their organization around issues of racial reform and equity. The actions and statements of this member are inconsistent with the direction that the HFPA has publicly said it has embarked upon.”

Privately, Monday night DCP sent the HFPA a letter asking for Berk’s immediate expulsion.

On Tuesday, NBC also issued a statement echoing DCP.

“NBC strongly condemns Phil Berk’s actions and is calling for his immediate expulsion. While we continue to await the details of HFPA’s upcoming plan for reform, swift action on this front is an essential element for NBC to move forward with the HFPA and the Golden Globes.”

The statement can be read as NBC putting down the hammer on the organization, according to someone familiar with the dynamics between NBC and HFPA, but not authorized to speak publicly.

DCP was waiting until the HFPA released a set of reforms expected on May 6. However, the Berk email displayed a “very blatant exhibition of racism,” and the company felt it needed to say something publicly, the person said.

The HFPA has come under pressure for not having any Black members as well as allegations of ethical and financial lapses raised in a Times investigation into the group.

Last month, the group behind the Golden Globe Awards pledged to make “transformational change” and retained a strategic diversity advisor, Shaun Harper, a professor of racial, gender and LGBTQ issues at USC’s Marshall School of Business, and an outside law firm, Ropes & Gray, to audit and review its policies and membership requirements and bylaws.

The HFPA, which in recent weeks has reached out to the National Assn. of Black Journalists and NAACP, plans to announce a set of reforms on May 6.

Times Staff Writer Meg James contributed to this report.