LOS ANGELES — A trial is needed to determine whether the longtime producer of the Golden Globe Awards had the rights to negotiate a deal keeping the glitzy awards show on NBC through 2018, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank issued two rulings in a lawsuit over whether a 1993 agreement granted the show's longtime producer, dick clark productions, the right to negotiate an extension with NBC last year. She refused to side with either dick clark productions or the show's organizers, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
Fairbank's rulings, released Tuesday, state there are issues a jury should decide in whether the agreement and the later actions by both sides meant the production company has rights to work on the show for as long as it airs on NBC.
The 2012 show, scheduled for Jan. 15, is not in jeopardy, although the ruling gives the association less time to try to negotiate a new broadcast deal – and possibly change networks – if a jury rules in its favor.
The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has argued it did not intend to give away its broadcast rights to the production company indefinitely, although attorneys for dick clark productions argue it was a reward for restoring the show to a major network after scandal knocked it from airwaves in the early 1980s.
The judge stated she found support for both sides' interpretations of the contract and could not resolve the issue before a trial.
"The court finds that the disputed portion of the 1993 amendment is reasonable susceptible to the interpretations of both parties," the ruling states.
Her ruling rejected a motion by the production company to dismiss the case because it the Hollywood Foreign Press Association had waited too long to bring its case.
"We look forward to proceeding to trial and vindicating our rights," the group's president, Aida Takla-O'Reilly, wrote in a statement. She has previously said that the timing of the trial, scheduled to begin Aug. 30, gives the association plenty of time to prepare for its show.
The production company said in a statement that it is looking forward to having the broadcast agreement issue settled. "We firmly believe our position will be vindicated as we were within our contract rights to make the NBC deal," dick clark productions said in a statement. "The HFPA knows this all too well and is simply trying to rewrite the contract through litigation."
If jurors side with dick clark productions, the show will proceed as planned on NBC, although it remains to be seen how the relationship between the two groups will play out after months of court battles and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent by sides on the litigation.
The association of foreign journalists sued dick clark productions, also known as dcp, in November claiming the company improperly negotiated a seven-year extension to air the show on NBC. The association contends its relationship with the producers ended after the 2011 show, but producers point to language in the 1993 document that they claim gives them rights to work on the show "in perpetuity" as long as it airs on NBC.
If the agreement is interpreted as the producers want, argued that it would lose crucial rights to its signature property – a glitzy awards gala that is worth millions of dollars each year.
"We would be at their mercy," association attorney Daniel Petrocelli argued during a daylong hearing last week. "Forever."
Brad Phillips, an attorney for dick clark productions, argued the 1993 agreement made sense because the production company "had accomplished essentially miracles for this show."
The company is now owned by Red Zone Capital Partners. Dick clark productions has produced the show since 1983 and splits revenues from the broadcast 50-50 with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.
Anthony McCartney can be reached at http://twitter.com/celebritydocket