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News and Entertainment

Study: The TV industry falls short of off-camera inclusivity

ByReiss Bowler

Oct 22, 2020

LOS ANGELES (AP) – When Zendaya won the Emmy Award for Best Drama Actress last month, her triumph seemed to underline the TV industry’s progress towards inclusivity.

The “Euphoria” star became the second black winner in the category in five years, following Viola Davis’ victory over the drought for “How to Get Away with Murder” in 2015.

But such success contrasts with the diversity gap in behind-the-camera jobs and among TV executives, as measured by race and gender, according to a new study from the University of California, Los Angeles, released Thursday.

“There has been a lot of progress for women and people of color in front of the camera,” Darnell Hunt, dean of the school’s social sciences department and the study’s co-author, said in a statement. “Unfortunately, there hasn’t been the same level of progress behind the camera.”

That’s most notable in Hollywood’s executive suites, where little has changed since the UCLA study counted the numbers five years ago, he said.

As of September 2020, the survey found that whites held 92% of chair and CEO positions at TV networks and studios, while men held 68% of those posts. 84% of the senior executives were white and 60% male. In 2015, the executive suites were 96% white and 71% male, which Hunt calls “minimal change.”

That’s especially telling given the racial settlement sparked by the police-related deaths of George Floyd and other African Americans, Hunt said. While media companies have expressed support for the Black Lives Matter movement, their actions are inconsistent with their words, Hunt said in an interview.

This is despite the growing market share represented by consumers of color, as they prefer replacing whites as the majority of America, Hunt said on Wednesday. According to the US Census, the country was 60% white and 40% people of color in 2019, with the latter figure projected to be 53% by 2050.

“Hollywood has been trying to figure out how to recognize the relationship between diversity and the bottom line without fundamentally changing the way they do business,” he said. “If they were serious about reading how the wind is blowing and where the market is headed,” more executives would be hired.

“But they didn’t,” he said, acknowledging a notable exception in Channing Dungey, who became president of a major broadcasting network at ABC, jumped to Netflix and was named chairman of the Warner Bros. this week. Television Group. Dungey is Black.

Inclusivity also lags behind those in offices outside the C-suite. In the 2018/19 season, people of color were on average 24% of the credited writers and 22% of the directors for all broadcast, cable and streaming episodes.

The underrepresentation of people of color in decision-making and creative positions means that ethnic characters ‘storylines are’ lacking authenticity or written stereotypically or even ‘raceless,’ ” said Ana-Christina Ramon, a co-author of the report, in a statement. .

Women, just over half of the population, made up 28.6% of online series creators, 28.1% on broadcast and 22.4% on cable. While they have made gains in that and most other on and off camera jobs, they remain underrepresented in almost all cases.

The study, which examined 453 scripted broadcast, cable and online TV shows from the 2017-18 season and 463 such shows from 2018-19, found that people with on-screen color collectively approximate proportional representation.

“We’ve come a long way in that regard” from UCLA’s first study of the 2011-12 season, Hunt said.

But progress is skewed when it comes to ethnicity. African-American actors have been at the forefront of inclusion for more than a decade, Hunt said, while Latinos are consistently underrepresented, Native Americans are “virtually invisible,” and the Asian American numbers ebb and flow.

Inclusivity in the Middle East and North Africa is on the rise.

“But we don’t say anything about the quality of the images, because recording can be bad for those groups in some cases because we use stereotyped images,” he said. “That’s another topic.”

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Lynn Elber can be reached at lelber@ap.org and is on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber.