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Trial over Globes broadcast rights opens in LA

- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 24, 2012

LOS ANGELES (AP) - The executive who negotiated a deal that brought the Golden Globe Awards to NBC in the mid-1990s testified Tuesday that he didn't think it was necessary to tell its organizers they were signing away rights that could keep the show on the network indefinitely.

Former dick clark productions President Francis La Maina testified he informed the then-president of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association about the deal's "perpetuity clause" and he believed it was her responsibility to explain it to the full membership. The NBC deal was brought to the group in 1993, a decade after it had been bumped from network television because of scandal.

The clause allows the production company, which is no longer owned by entertainment pioneer Dick Clark, to work on the Globes as long as it airs on NBC.

La Maina was the first witness in a trial in federal court that will decide ownership of the broadcast rights to the Globes, a glitzy awards banquet that brings out Hollywood superstars and in some years serves as a predictor of Oscar contenders.

The production company, also known as dcp, used the language of the 1993 deal to support a $150 million contract extension signed in 2010 that keeps the Globes on NBC through 2018. It has noted that the association has known about the clause for years and even allowed the company to work on five shows without a formal extension, but waited until the new broadcast deal was struck to sue.

The HFPA contends the new agreement is invalid and it should be allowed to negotiate with other networks. Nearly 17 million people watched the most recent Globes, which aired Jan. 15.

"I don't think I misled the Hollywood Foreign Press," La Maina said, adding that he thought he was fulfilling his obligations by explaining the impact to the association's president. "My job is to deal with the top dog of Hollywood Foreign Press."

The trial is expected to last more than two weeks and could lead to the first restructuring of the HFPA's broadcast rights on its own terms in nearly 30 years. The group and dcp have worked together since 1983, but it wasn't until the 1993 deal with NBC was reached that both sides began to generate large sums for the Globes.

The association claims it would have never knowingly allowed the perpetuity clause and that it had assurances from dcp executives that they were not negotiating an extension with NBC in 2010. The group believes the perpetuity clause would mean it is likely to receive less money than the Globes are worth because dcp would have an incentive to keep the show on NBC.

The case will be decided by U.S. District Judge A. Howard Matz, who said Monday that the 1993 agreement and other evidence present enough ambiguity to warrant a trial.

La Maina, who left dcp in 2007, is expected to be on the stand for several days. Other witnesses may include Dick Clark, CBS CEO Leslie Moonves and several current and former HFPA members.

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Follow Anthony McCartney at http://twitter.com/mccartneyAP

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