WGAW: Minorities Lag in TV Programming Boom

TV production volume has exploded, more than offsetting the loss of jobs on the theatrical side, but that bounty has not trickled down to the minority media, according to a new report released by the Writers Guild of America, West, which found minority media earnings for TV writers was still over $25,000 less than their white counterparts.

Diverse content has become hot topic on both coasts with the Oscars boycott over the lack of minority nominees and the FCC's focus on programming diversity in a variety of proceedings.

A 2014 report (based on 2012 data) on Hollywood writers, which the union represents, found modest gains for minorities and women and more than modest gains for older writers in TV.

The just released 2016 Hollywood Writers Report was described by WGAW as "a mixture of slow, forward progress; stalls; and reversals" on the diversity front.

“The Guild has watched for years as the progress made by our industry has, in essence, flatlined," said WGAW president Howard A. Rodman. "Today’s report makes it emphatically clear that our Guild needs not just to mirror a broken system, but to work to change it.”

Women were in the first category, having made small gains in employment and earnings, but still not achieving parity. But for minority TV writers, "any advances in employment share and relative earnings have stalled since the previous report," WGAW said, with only slight gains in film.

Older writers continue to do well, as top writers have aged into the category. Writers 51 to 60 are the highest paid in TV.

According to the report, citing 2014 data, the median salary for a minority TV writer was $102,492, $25,276 less than their white male counterpart, or about 80 cents on the dollar.

Among the other key TV takeaways from the report according to WGAW, were:

• "Woman’s share of television employment increased 2 percentage points between 2012 and 2014, from 27 percent to 29 percent.

• "Women television writers earned approximately 93 cents for every dollar earned by white males in 2014, up slightly from 91 cents in 2012.

• "Accounting for 13 percent of television writers, minorities remain underrepresented by a factor of about 3 to 1 among writers in the sector."

“Progress has been slow at best for women and minority writers in an era of television renaissance, while film sector stagnation has witnessed either anemic advances or actual reversals of fortune for groups of writers that remain woefully underrepresented in both sectors,” said Dr. Darnell Hunt, director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, who wrote the report, provocatively titled "Renaissance in Reverse."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.