The decision of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and its sister organization, the Broadcast Television Journalists Association, to seal an exclusive partnership with Entertainment Weekly may have permanently damaged the credibility of the Critics Choice Awards.
The surprise decision, announced Tuesday morning, gave Entertainment Weekly exclusive rights to announce nominations for the 22nd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards. The TV categories will now be revealed on EW’s website on Nov. 14, followed by the movie categories on Dec. 1.
The Critics’ Choice Awards will also now award EW’s “Entertainer of the Year” (featured in the magazine’s annual Best and Worst issue) on the telecast, which airs live on A&E on Dec. 11. A red carpet show will air beforehand on A&E, and will also be streamed on EW.com.
The deal effectively turns the Critics Choice Awards into an Entertainment Weekly event, and also effectively lends the Critics’ Choice seal of approval to EW’s “Entertainer of the Year” pick. That didn’t sit well Tuesday with a number of journalists from rival publications – particularly on the TV side.
Among those immediately quitting the organization: TVLine’s Michael Ausiello, Variety’s Debra Birnbaum, Buzzfeed’s Jarett Wieselman, TV Guide Magazine’s Matt Roush, Variety’s Maureen Ryan, Media Village’s Ed Martin, and Us Weekly’s John Griffiths. (I was also a member and have notified the organization that I am departing as well.)
The idea that Entertainment Weekly would be the preferred media outlet for an awards show decided by journalists from many outlets is unusual. (It would be like CNN being named the official partner of the Presidential Debates, even though they’re moderated and covered by representatives from multiple news organizations.)
It’s one thing for a media outlet to sponsor an afterparty or a specific subset of the event. That’s not the case here; according to the BFCA/BTJA announcement, EW “will provide additional linear, digital and print content within and leading up to the ’22nd Annual Critics’ Choice Awards,’ featuring EW editors, writer and critics, including the one-hour special, ‘The Road to the Critics’ Choice Awards,’ (working title) showcasing the year’s nominees and their achievements.”
Where does that leave everyone else who also participates in the awards’ process? If an outlet is getting preferential treatment, then it’s really their award.
As Ausiello told Variety: “What I loved about the organization, and the awards themselves, was they were never about one media entity. It was about the entire industry coming together to recognize the best in TV. Unfortunately, it’s now becoming a marketing event built around a single brand, and that’s not a shift I’m comfortable with — even if it’s a brand I happen to love.”
Despite the critical exodus Tuesday afternoon, the BFCA/BTJA made no outreach to explain the EW deal, or to try to soothe members who might be disturbed by the arrangement.
The Critics’ Choice Movie Awards are more established; their first ceremony was in 1996 (back when it was simply known as the Critics’ Choice Awards). The TV awards are a newer addition, with the BTJA launching in 2011 – and have had a bumpier existence. After disappointing ratings as a standalone event, the Critics’ Choice TV awards merged with the Critics’ Choice movie telecast this past January.
With the departures, the BTJA loses most of its highest-profile members. Because there aren’t many TV critics in broadcast, the lion’s share of the organization was made up of internet journalists – or traditional media reporters whose outlets also have websites. It’s a smaller group than the Television Critics Association, which holds its own non-televised awards event every summer.
It remains to be seen if any film reporters on the BFCA side will also walk out but they, too, are impacted by the new EW arrangement.
“A handful of BTJA members did resign today, but the Critics’ Choice nominating committee will continue its work and the TV nominations will be announced on November 14 as scheduled,” BFCA president Joey Berlin said in a statement.