CBS Needs to Improve on Inclusion of LGBT People

January 31, 2010
On Friday GLAAD called on CBS to address an apparent bias in its Super Bowl advertising decisions after CBS declined to air a commercial with gay content during the Super Bowl because the “creative is not within the Network’s Broadcast Standards for Super bowl Sunday.” “CBS has a problem when they do something like this at the same time as they allow an anti-gay group like Focus on the Family to place ads during the Super Bowl,” said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios. “This network should come clean to the public about what’s going on because this seems to be a homophobic double standard.” Earlier in the week, GLAAD released a Call to Action for community members and allies to speak out when CBS allowed the anti-gay group Focus on the Family to advertise during the Super Bowl after having unfairly denied that ability to the LGBT-inclusive United Church of Christ in previous years.

Adam Lambert Performing at the American Music Awards in 2009

  This latest controversy is not the first time that CBS has been called out for failing to be LGBT inclusive. In November 2009, GLAAD released a statement calling out another double standard when CBS The Early Show blurred Adam Lambert’s same-sex kiss in a news segment showing his appearance at the American Music Awards. “I would have hoped CBS would provide the same treatment for images of gay and lesbian people and not create an unfair double standard that treats our community differently," said GLAAD President Jarrett Barrios at the time. "CBS regularly shows kisses throughout every daypart. The kiss was not blurred on ABC nor in news coverage on other networks.  While we continue to applaud The Early Show for featuring Adam Lambert today, we have reached out to the show’s producers to express our concerns about their decision and offer ways they can make their coverage of gay and transgender people more fair.” CBS The Early Show last year also came under fire from GLAAD and Media Matters for America after they hosted anti-gay commentator Ann Coulter and gave her a platform to promote her latest book. CBS’ fictional programming is equally as controversial when it comes to LGBT inclusion. In GLAAD’s Network Responsibility Index, an annual report that maps the quantity, quality and diversity of images of LGBT people on television, CBS received a “failing” rating last year. CBS was the only broadcast network to post a significant decline, having received an Adequate rating the previous year. CBS saw the greatest decline among the broadcast networks, dropping to last place among broadcast networks with 60 hours (5%) of LGBT-inclusive content, out of 1,148 total hours of primetime programming. As in the past, the bulk of CBS’ LGBT impressions (72%) came from its alternative and reality programming. CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler acknowledged her network’s deficit in LGBT representation and pledged to work toward greater inclusion. However, CBS continues to disappoint with zero LGBT series regular characters and only one recurring LGBT character this season. But CBS does know how to include LGBT people in news and entertainment programming in a fair and accurate way. The New Adventures of Old Christine featured the wedding between Christine and her best friend Barb in 2008 and raised important awareness about the legal and social problems that LGBT couples face. This storyline resulted in the show receiving the GLAAD Media Award last year for Outstanding Individual Episode – in a Series without a Regular LGBT Character. Also, CBS  The Early Show featured an interview with transgender Methodist minister David Weekly and his wife in 2009, providing viewers an important window into the lives of transgender people of faith. The segment is nominated for a GLAAD Media Award. But CBS’ recent decisions regarding advertisements for the Super Bowl clearly demonstrate that the network needs to have a candid conversation with the LGBT community about what is going on and do more to include stories and images of our lives. GLAAD will be requesting meetings with executives at CBS to address the apparent double standards and advocate for greater LGBT inclusion.