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Grammy organizers deny claims award nominations are rigged

(Reuters) - The organizers of the Grammy Awards on Thursday denied allegations that nominations for the highest prizes in the music industry are rigged, calling the claims “categorically false and misleading.”

FILE PHOTO: The Recording Academy CEO Deborah Dugan announces nominations for the 2020 Grammy Awards at a news conference in Manhattan, New York, U.S. November 20, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Segar

Allegations that the Grammy nominations process is tainted by conflicts of interest were made in a complaint filed earlier this week by the former chief executive of the Recording Academy, Deborah Dugan, after she was placed on administrative leave.

Dugan repeated her claims in interviews on two morning television shows on Thursday, just days before Sunday’s Grammy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles. The Recording Academy has said the live televised show will go ahead as planned.

Bill Freimuth, the chief awards officer at the Recording Academy, denied Dugan’s claims.

“Spurious allegations claiming members or committees use our process to push forward nominations for artists they have relationships with are categorically false, misleading and wrong,” he said in a statement on Thursday.

Freimuth said it was the goal of the Recording Academy “to ensure the Grammy Awards process is led in a fair and ethical manner and that voting members make their choices based solely on the artistic excellence and technical merits of eligible recordings.”

Dugan was placed on immediate administrative leave on Jan. 17, five months after taking the helm as the Recording Academy’s first female chief executive and president. The Academy said at the time that the move was in response to an allegation of misconduct made against her by a senior member of staff but did not give details.

Dugan responded by filing a complaint on Tuesday with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging gender discrimination, unlawful retaliation and unequal pay.

In the complaint, she described what she called a “boys’ club mentality” at the Recording Academy. Dugan also claimed that some members involved in the Grammy nominations process “push forward artists with whom they have relationships” and that in some cases musicians being considered for a nomination sit on the committee voting in their category.

Dugan took over as the Recording Academy chief from Neil Portnow, who in 2018 had provoked outrage by telling reporters that female artists and producers needed to “step up” if they wanted recognition in the music industry.

The Recording Academy in December said it would double the number of female voters by 2025 by adding 2,500 more women.

This year’s Grammy nominations were dominated by women, including newcomers Lizzo and Billie Eilish. They will both perform on the Grammy stage on Jan. 26 along with the likes of Ariana Grande, Camila Cabello, Gwen Stefani and rapper Lil Nas X.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant

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