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For the first time in the eight-year history of UCLA’s annual Hollywood Diversity Report, people of the global majority overindexed onscreen (43.4 percent) on broadcast scripted TV compared to their share of the U.S. population (42.7 percent).
But authors Darnell Hunt and Ana-Christina Ramón note that the breakthrough – actors of color also approached proportionate representation on cable (40.5 percent) and digital (38.4 percent) – can primarily be attributed to an increase in roles for Black (20.9 percent on cable) and multiracial (11.9 percent on broadcast) actors, while others remain severely underrepresented (e.g., 5.5 percent for Latinos on digital) or nearly invisible (e.g., 0.1 percent for Native Americans on cable).
Roughly a quarter to a third of television is made in Los Angeles, which is 48.6 percent Hispanic or Latino, yet the study found that the Latino share of TV actors and directors hovers in the mid-single digits.
“Diversifying the workforce means bringing equity to the economy and ensuring inclusionary practice in Hollywood,” said Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo (D-51), the sponsor of a bill signed in July that, among other measures, granted UCLA’s Hollywood Advancement Project (which produces the Hollywood Diversity Report) $250,000 to continue its work. “As Latinos make up the largest population in the state of California, yet only a dismal percentage in Hollywood, I’m looking forward to ensuring the Latinx community is not subsidizing its own exclusion via California’s Film Tax Credit Program, which the legislature oversees.”
Analyzing 461 scripted series across 50 broadcast and cable networks and streaming platforms for the 2019-20 TV season, the study (part one, focused on film, was released earlier this year) found that racial diversity improved year-over-year in writing and directing, but still was below proportionate representation across all platforms when it came to writers, directors, show creators and lead actors.
Yet shows whose writers rooms reflect the composition of the real-world population (31 percent to 40 percent people of the global majority) enjoyed the highest median ratings on broadcast TV, as did cable series whose ensembles were at least 41 percent nonwhite.
“We have seen this appetite for diverse content repeated over the history of our analyses,” Hunt, who is UCLA’s dean of social sciences, said in a statement. “The fact that shows with diverse writers rooms did well last year also illustrates that audiences are looking for authentic portrayals.”
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