A Norwegian entertainment reporter living in Los Angeles sued the Hollywood Foreign Press Association Monday, alleging that the organization known for the Golden Globe awards violates antitrust laws and excludes from membership any correspondent that might compete with an existing member.
Kjersti Flaa alleges in the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles federal court, that the HFPA monopolizes the foreign entertainment reporting market and is unwilling to share the “enormous economic benefits” that membership provides.
The organization did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
According to the complaint, the HFPA is a mutual benefit corporation exempted from both state and federal taxes and is required to benefit all members of the class of workers it represents — foreign entertainment reporters who reside in Southern California — equally, without regard to whether they are members.
“Through fortuitous circumstance, the HFPA’s 87 members have been able to monopolize the foreign entertainment reporting market in `the Entertainment Capital of the World’ — Los Angeles,” the complaint alleges. “Remarkably, they have accomplished that feat at the taxpayers’ expense — and that (among other things) makes their activities unlawful.”
The HFPA’s annual Golden Globes telecast is viewed by Hollywood studios as “a way to build momentum for a successful Oscar campaign,” according to Flaa’s court papers.
As a consequence, according to the plaintiff, HFPA members are invited to attend press junkets, film festivals and “set visits around the world at no expense to themselves (and are freely allowed to accept the studios’ largesse).” Interview slots with news-making actors, directors, producers, screenwriters and other industry professionals are reserved for members, who are paid “lavish sums of money to provide nominal services” to the association, the suit says.
Instead of providing benefits to non-member foreign entertainment reporters, the HFPA “engages in very substantial and shocking discrimination against them for the benefit of its members,” including requiring applicants to pledge not to offer to write for any publication claimed by a member and not to write for any rival publication either, the 42-page suit alleges.
The suit also alleges that no more than two or three dozen HFPA members are “legitimate, respected media figures,” and most of “the association’s so-called journalists are intermittent freelancers at best.”
Flaa, who alleges she was rejected for membership by the HFPA repeatedly for no legitimate reason, contends that because the HFPA’s members will not admit anyone who might possibly compete with an existing member, “the average age of HFPA members has steadily increased.”
“Only half the HFPA’s members are considered truly `active’; the remaining half either do the bare minimum required to maintain their `active’ status or are relieved from having to meet minimum requirements by virtue of their longevity with the organization,” the suit alleges. “The HFPA’s 87 members — all of whom are eligible to vote for the Golden Globe Award winners — include five persons in their 90s, an approximately equal number in their 80s, and numerous members in their 70s.”
The lawsuit alleges that one member is in his late 90s and “is, sadly, deaf and legally blind. He does, however, cast one of the 87 votes that determine who will win a Golden Globe and therefore enjoys the same perquisites befitting of royalty as the other voters.”
“The studios, of course, resent having to lavish enormous sums of money on, and being required to cater to, the desires of a few dozen aging journalists who are regularly heard snoring through screenings, but given the importance of the Golden Globes, they see no way to end the farce,” Flaa’s lawsuit says.
Flaa is described as a video correspondent for various Scandinavian media outlets, and operates a YouTube channel featuring celebrity interviews. She says she applied for membership in the HFPA twice, and had sponsorship from current members, but her applications were rejected.
According to her suit, two Scandinavian HFPA members campaigned against Flaa’s membership because they were afraid their “monopoly” on Hollywood coverage would be affected.