More Diversity On Television Advocated By Rights Groups

Lynn Elber, AP, Dec. 11, 2006

Civil-rights groups seeking greater ethnic diversity in the TV industry said last week that the major broadcast networks are making improvements but it’s time for greater progress—and pressure.

“I don’t want to wait 10 years until we’re close on television to the 15 percent of the population we are in the U.S.,” said Alex Nogales, an official with the National Latino Media Council.

The council has been working together with groups including the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition and American Indians in Film & TV since 1999 to increase minority hiring and representation in the broadcast TV industry.

Karen K. Narasaki, chair of the Asian Pacific American coalition, said there has been “marginal progress” as all four networks increased the number of starring roles for Asian-American actors in series. In one case, however, that meant going from one role to two.

“We’re still far from where we need to be,” she said, with far too many all-white shows or shows that by dint of their setting should have Asian-American characters but don’t.

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Increasing their ranks is crucial to creating more minority characters, she said. She noted the cast diversity on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” created and produced by a black woman, Shonda Rhimes.

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In annual “report cards,” ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox are graded in areas including their hiring of minority actors, writers and directors, development of programs with ethnic diversity and overall commitment to diversity issues.

This year, for shows airing from fall 2005 to fall 2006, the National Latino Media Coalition gave ABC the highest overall grade, A-minus, followed by a B-plus for CBS and a B each for NBC and Fox.

The Asian Pacific American Media Coalition gave NBC, ABC and Fox a C-plus each, while CBS earned a C.

In the coalition’s first report card, in 2000, the networks received mostly Ds.

There was yet again a sharp slap from American Indians in film & TV: The virtual absence of any American Indians on screen or in the industry earned a flurry of Fs and Ds, with just a handful of higher grades.

In separate statements Thursday, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox reiterated their commitments to diversity and pledged continued efforts.

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