Television diversity is improving on screen. Behind the camera, it’s always mostly white people and men.


Last month’s Emmy Awards were distinguished by their flagrant lack of diversity, with white designer shows and featuring predominantly white actors, winning most of the evening’s top prizes. The same pattern is documented in the latest edition of an annual Hollywood Diversity Study. There have been some gains in some areas, particularly in screen portrayal, but many of them are modest at best.

Posted Tuesday, Hollywood Diversity Report at the University of California, Los Angeles, reviews hundreds of TV shows that aired during the 2019-20 season. Led by UCLA researchers Darnell Hunt and Ana-Christina Ramón, the report found that among 2019-2020 shows on broadcast or digital platforms, “not a single scripted show created solely by a person of color n ‘won an Emmy “. Additionally, “for broadcast and digital, the shows most likely to win an Emmy for 2019-2020 were among those with the least diverse cast.”

Michaela Coel, creator, writer, director and star of HBO’s “I May Destroy You,” was one of the few color television creators to win an Emmy at last month’s ceremony.

Cliff Lipson / CBS Photo Archive via Getty Images

Awards like the Emmys are important because they mean visibility for the people and projects that win. They can also influence the projects that will be carried out in the future. Their lack of diversity reflects broader industry-wide issues, as seen in the UCLA report, which breaks down the representation of women and people of color among key players, actors, creators, Directors and screenwriters working on 461 scripted, cable and TV shows on the digital platform during the 2019-2020 season. (Earlier this year, researchers published the first part of the study, which focused on films released in 2020.)

For nearly a decade, Hunt and Ramón Annual Reports found that the public gravitate towards movies and TV shows with more diverse cast – which means when Hollywood executives don’t prioritize diversity, they leave money on the table.

Additionally, their research, like many other studies of diversity in front of and behind the camera, has repeatedly shown that movies and TV shows with a more equitable portrayal on screen are more likely to be made in. first when there is a fairer representation off screen. . But Hollywood has been slow to catch up, making largely incremental progress over the years.

About 42.7% of Americans identified themselves as people of color in last year’s census. According to Tuesday’s report, people of color have broadly achieved proportional representation in terms of the racial diversity of the TV show’s cast members during the 2019-20 season. In cable and digital programming, people of color are also on the cusp of proportional representation. These gains, however, were mostly among black and multiracial main characters.

Researchers warn that Latinxes and Asians remain under-represented and that Natives and Aboriginals are “virtually invisible” onscreen. Low levels of Latinx representation are especially glaring, as Latinxes make up nearly 20% of the American population and almost half of the population of Los Angeles, where many of these television shows are written, filmed, and produced.

Behind the camera, women and people of color have made modest strides in gaining more opportunities to create their own shows in the white and male dominated world of television creators. But they are still a long way from achieving proportional representation.

Issa Rae (right), creator and star of HBO
Issa Rae (right), creator and star of HBO’s “Insecure”, and her co-star Yvonne Orji (left) arrive at the premiere of the show’s final season on October 21 in Los Angeles.

Emma McIntyre via Getty Images

According to the UCLA report, cable TV shows had the highest percentage of creators of color (20.6% in 2019-2020, an all-time high). Notably, digital platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, which like to emphasize the freedom they give creators, haven’t done as well as you might expect. Only 14.7% of digital program creators in 2019-2020 were people of color, compared to 15.7% in 2015-2016 and 16.5% in 2016-2017. Just under 30% of the creators of digital shows in 2019-2020 were women. This percentage has peaked at around 30% in recent years, after peaking at 34.8% in the 2016-17 season.

On broadcast networks, which still garner millions of viewers every week, only 9.8% of the show’s creators for the 2019-2020 season were people of color and 24.1% were women. Both figures have more or less remained the same in recent years.

Since previous gains have been so minimal, even a single show, or a small handful of them, can represent a significant increase. For example, in 2018-19, 0% of the season’s Emmy-winning scripted cable shows were created by a person of color, according to the report. By the 2019-20 season, that number had risen to 12.5%, thanks to just one HBO “Insecure” show, created by and starring Issa Rae.

These issues are systemic and ingrained, and as the report points out, much of the responsibility for building a more diverse Hollywood lies with studio and network executives, who remain predominantly white and male.

Their decisions about what shows to do “set the parameters by which everything else moves,” the researchers wrote in Tuesday’s report. “Only when women and people of color are included in these defining spaces – and in significant proportions – will Hollywood truly solve its diversity problem.”

Read the full report here.

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