Diversity Study: TV is Bad, Film is Worse

Only 28% of speaking characters across 414 films and TV episodes in 2014-2015 were from “underrepresented” racial and ethnic groups, according to a new study, which is close to 10% below the U.S. population norm. The report, from USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, examined 109 films and 305 TV series, and found that neither has much to brag about in terms of putting minorities and women on either side of the camera.

“This is no mere diversity problem. This is an inclusion crisis,” said Stacy L. Smith, survey author. “Over half of the content we examined features no Asian or Asian-American characters, and over 20% featured no African-American characters. It is clear that the ecosystem of entertainment is exclusionary.”

The study comes as the Academy Awards is being blasted for its lack of minorities among nominated films, spawning the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. The Oscars telecast airs on ABC Feb. 28.

None of the six film distributors examined in the survey got a passing grade from the Annenberg authors. On the bright side, Walt Disney Co. and The CW, along with SVOD players Hulu and Amazon, got decent marks for inclusion. The survey singled out Disney/ABC and The CW. “Both companies evidence hiring practices behind the camera for writers and show creators that approach balance,” it read.

A total of 4,284 film and TV directors were assessed for gender, with nearly 85% male. Just 3% of film directors were female, while broadcast (17%), cable (15%) and streaming (12%) were more female-friendly. Among 6,421 film and TV writers, 71% were male.

Nearly 23% of show creators are female.

Among other findings, 2% of all speaking characters across 414 movies and series were coded LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender).

Michael Malone

Michael Malone is content director at B+C and Multichannel News. He joined B+C in 2005 and has covered network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television, including writing the "Local News Close-Up" market profiles. He also hosted the podcasts "Busted Pilot" and "Series Business." His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The L.A. Times, The Boston Globe and New York magazine.