By ANTHONY McCARTNEY, Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A federal judge ruled Monday that producers of the Golden Globe Awards acted properly when they negotiated a deal keeping the glitzy gala on NBC through 2018.
U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz's 89-page ruling states that the production company, dick clark productions, has a right to negotiate the deal and work on the show as long as it airs on NBC. That right was a key part of a long-running dispute between the company, known as dcp, and the Globes' organizers, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
The association sued over the broadcast deal in November 2010, but the two sides have worked together on the past two awards shows. The production company has claimed it has a perpetual right to work on the show as long as it airs on NBC, but the association argued that it never agreed to those terms and it was facing the loss of its creation.
The Globes have become big business, with Hollywood A-listers appearing each year. The journalists' group and producer split the multimillion-dollar annual profits evenly.
There was no immediate comment from the HFPA. Matz has said he doesn't expect his ruling will end the dispute, but that it will likely lead to an appeal.
Matz's ruling states the dcp only has a right to work with NBC, but that it does not need to receive approval for its broadcast deal directly from the HFPA anymore because of a 1993 amendment to their working relationship.
"We are pleased the court affirmed our contract and look forward to working with the HFPA and NBC to nurture and expand the Golden Globes franchise for years to come," dcp wrote in a statement.
The company's CEO, Mark Shapiro, said he wished Dick Clark, who died April 18, had lived to see the ruling.
"My only sadness is that Dick wasn't here to see the win," Shapiro said. "This was the brainchild of Dick Clark. It was his idea to do a long-term deal."
The judge stated the unusual agreement came about largely because of HFPA's own leadership problems. "HFPA suffered from the absence of sound, business-like practices," Matz wrote.
He noted the group's complicated internal politics and frequent elections, some of which "triggered bitter feelings."
"HFPA members have always been dedicated to the success of the Golden Globes Award Show," Matz wrote. "But often they succumbed to bouts of pronounced turmoil and personal feuds."
The judge's ruling came after he heard nine days of testimony earlier this year over the deal negotiated by dcp. Clark sold the last of his interest in the company in 2007, but the dispute focused heavily on events that took place while he still owned it in 1993.
The judge had to determine whether a 1993 agreement between the HFPA and dcp gave the production company the right to work on the show perpetually, provided it airs on NBC. The association contended it never agreed to the perpetuity clause, and that if it were upheld it would the HFPA control over its signature property, the Globes.
Attorneys for dcp argued that the clause was to ensure continuity and protect the production company, which had just negotiated a multi-year deal to return the Globes to broadcast airwaves for the first time since a scandal knocked them from CBS in the early 1980s.
Matz noted the contrast between the production company and the journalists' group in his ruling.
"In contrast, dcp acted in a consistently business-like fashion, and for almost all of the 27 year relationship it had with HFPA before this suit was filed dcp was represented by one experienced executive who was adept at dealing fairly and effectively with the often amateurish conduct of HFPA," he wrote.
The disputed deal is worth $150 million, but the association contends the broadcast rights are worth much more now. The show, while not a reliable predictor of Oscar night glory, attracts the top stars from both television and film and attracts millions of viewers each year. The booze-filled gala is more unpredictable and less staid than other major reality shows, which has only been amplified by host Ricky Gervais in recent years.
Matz noted that the agreement between the HFPA and dcp — and his ruling — tie the two groups together as long as the show remains on NBC. If the network drops the show, the production company's rights to work on the gala would also end.
Shapiro said that despite the trial and the cloud of uncertainty it has cast over the Globes, dcp has a strong relationship with NBC that includes several other shows.
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP .
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