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Time to Open Up the Director Ranks

As the cable industry devoted last week to diversity efforts, a new report from the Directors Guild of America has found that minorities and women are not regularly being hired to direct television shows.

The percentage of episodes directed by white and minority females remained even year-to-year at a paltry 12% and 2%, respectively, according to the DGA report, which looked at more than 3,500 episodes of more than 220 series produced in the 2013-14 network-television season and the 2013 cabletelevision season.

The only year-to-year gains were made by minority males, who directed 17% of show episodes compared with 14% last year. But a closer look reveals that all of those gains were made by one director, Tyler Perry, who directed every episode of the three series that he has on OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network: The Haves and Have Nots, For Better or for Worse and Love Thy Neighbor. The percentage of episodes directed by Caucasian males decreased from 72% in 2012-13 to 69% in 2013-14.

Translated, women and minority males combined still directed only three out of every 10 television series episodes, according to the DGA.

National Cable & Telecommunications Association CEO Michael Powell said during last week’s NAMIC Conference that the best way to ensure the industry continues to make gains in minority and female employment is to make sure a strong and full pipeline of qualified executives is waiting in the wings. It’s hard to believe that there aren’t many talented female and minority directors aren’t waiting for their opportunity to showcase their skills behind the camera. They have to be given a chance.

DGA president Paris Barclay said as much in his statement regarding the report. “Unfortunately, it can be shockingly difficult to convince the people who control hiring to make even small improvements to their hiring practices,” Barclay said. “People often say, ‘Everybody is responsible for diversity,’ but in the end, that often means that nobody takes responsibility. It’s time for the people who make the hiring decisions — be they studios, networks, production companies, or individual producers — to stop making excuses, stop passing the buck, and start living up to the country’s promise and possibility by providing true equal opportunity.”