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ABC Family Gets GLAAD Tidings Over LGBT Efforts

ABC Family continued its "long and distinguished history" of including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) stories into its programming" with 55% of its scheduled featuring LBGT-inclusive programming as gauged by GLAAD in its annual National Responsibility Index (NRI), by far the most of any network TV outlet and the biggest increase (18%) over last year.

That is according to the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation's fifth annual report on the "the quantity and quality of images of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people on television."

It got an "excellent" rating from GLAAD, the only network, broadcast or cable, to score that rating and only the second network ever after MTV broke through with an "excellent" rating last year. MTV was not among the basket of nets studied this year.

GLAAD found that, overall, the five broadcast nets studied had remained relatively steady, but one bright spot was CBS, which for the first time since 2007 got a passing grade. The CW (53%), Fox (29%) ABC (23%), and all got "good" grades, while NBC (13%) and CBS (10%) got an "adequate" grade. That was the same network order as last year's report.

The CW continued to lead on the broadcast TV side, while Fox's number two showing was on the strength of Glee, American Dad and Running Wild, which gave it the highest percentage and number of LGBT-inclusive comedies (it classified Glee as a comedy) of any broadcast network.

ABC may have been third behind CW and Fox in percentage of hours with LGBT-friendly fare, but only because it carries a full load rather than the abbreviated prime times (8-10 p.m.) of Fox and CW. In terms of hours, ABC had the most and got high marks from GLAAD for quality as well as quantity.

"Though both the CW and Fox have higher percentages of LGBT-inclusive hours, ABC features far more LGBT characters that would be considered 'leads' than any other network," said GLAAD in the report. "It's arguable that the impressions put forth by ABC were much more substantive compared to most on network television. Together with its youth-focused sister network ABC Family (which receives an ‘excellent' rating in this year's NRI), it remains an exemplary model of programming inclusivity."

ABC had 246 hours of LGBT-inclusive programming, but out of 1,108 total hours. The CW had 171 hours out of a total of 521 and Fox 214 out of 727.5

On the cable side, the top five were ABC Family, Showtime, 37%; TNT, 33%; HBO, 31%; and AMC, 29%. Syfy at 22% also got a good rating. Most in need of improvement, suggested GLAAD, were A&E and TBS at 5% apiece, although GLAAD pointed out that with the coming out of Paranormal State's host Ryan Buell last year, A&E had one of the only openly bisexual TV personalities.

The broadcast results were based on a content analysis of prime time programming on ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox and NBC from June 1, 2010 to May 31, 2011. The cable portion was a study of first-run airings of original programs in prime time on ABC Family, A&E, AMC, FX, HBO, Showtime, Syfy, TBS, TNT, and USA, chosen based on a combination of "Nielsen ranking, cultural and media recognition factor, and the diversity and breadth of original programming, says GLAAD, but with news, sports and kids nets excluded.

But while there were bright spots and dark, GLAAD said the one thing everyone needed to work on was diversifying their diversity, with gay white males continuing to be the dominant LGBT faces on TV. "Broadcast and cable networks are leaving many LGBT viewers struggling to find images that reflect their lives and communities," said GLAAD.

"We're proud of our programming, and grateful for the recognition from GLAAD," said Michael Riley, president, ABC Family, in response the report, according to GLAAD.  "We strive to reflect the rich diversity of our audience and the world around us, including the LGBT community, through strong characters and engaging, authentic storytelling.  Earning GLAAD's highest rating for our inclusive programming is both an honor and a validation of our programming's positive impact."