Color of Change, Women’s Media Center, RespectAbility, NHMC react to GLAAD’s ‘Where We Are on TV’ findings

On Thursday, GLAAD released its annual Where We Are on TV report, which analyzes the overall diversity of primetime scripted series regulars on broadcast networks and looks at the number of LGBTQ characters on cable networks and streaming services for the 2018-2019 TV season.

GLAAD's Where We Are on TV report found a record-high percentage of LGBTQ series regular characters on broadcast at 8.8 percent of all regulars. Notably for the first time this year, LGBTQ characters of color (50 percent) outnumber white LGBTQ characters (49 percent) among regular and recurring LGBTQ characters on broadcast. This same group of characters are also at gender parity this year with equal percentages of men and women characters (49.6 percent) and one non-binary character. LGBTQ inclusion is also up in scripted primetime programming on both cable and streaming (Amazon, Hulu, Netflix), and the racial diversity of LGBTQ characters increased significantly on all platforms tracked year-over-year.

GLAAD has tracked the presence of LGBTQ characters on television for 23 years. In 2005, GLAAD expanded this count past LGBTQ characters to track trends and amass statistics for all series regular characters on scripted broadcast television, which allows GLAAD to identify deficits in overall diversity across gender, race and ethnicity, and then added tracking disability status as well beginning in the 2010-11 season.

GLAAD reached out to allied media advocacy organizations in these spaces to get their reactions to our findings this year.

In terms of gender representation of all characters on broadcast scripted primetime television, women remained at 43 percent of all series regular characters, the same as last year. There was a drop of 16 women series regulars year-over-year. This percentage is an underrepresentation of the actual population, where women make up 51 percent of the U.S. population. The highest percentage of women series regulars on broadcast that GLAAD has found in the fourteen years it has tracked all series regulars was 45 percent in the 2012-13 season.

This year, there is parity between men and women LGBTQ characters, each making up 49.6 percent of LGBTQ regular and recurring characters on broadcast. One character on broadcast is non-binary. Of the LGBTQ characters on cable, 48 percent are men and 51 percent are women, with one non-binary character. Streaming counts women as 55 percent of LGBTQ characters and men making up 43 percent of LGBTQ characters on streaming. There are two non-binary characters.

On broadcast, there are 373 total regular characters of color in scripted primetime programming. Of those 373, 171 are women (46%). That group includes 75 Black women, 36 Latina women, 26 API women, and 34 who are multiracial or of another race or ethnicity than the ones listed.

Julie Burton, president of the Women's Media Center, said, "WMC’s most recent research shows that girls want more diverse female role models or other strong, relatable female characters in film and TV, yet these GLAAD numbers show that the numbers for women are on a downward trajectory. These times call for greater representation and equality. Entertainment studios must do better.”

A new record-high was also hit this year for representation of people of color (POC) with 44 percent of all series regulars on broadcast scripted primetime television being characters of color, an increase of four percent from last year.

For the first time in the history of this report, LGBTQ POC outnumbered white LGBTQ characters on broadcast television, with 50 percent of regular and recurring LGBTQ characters on broadcast being POC. On cable, 46 percent of LGBTQ characters were of color, and 48 percent of LGBTQ characters on streaming were POC. These are year-over-year increases of 11 and 25 percentage points, respectively.

There was also a record high percentage of Black series regular characters counted on broadcast  primetime television, coming in at 22 percent, a four point increase from last year's report.

Twenty-five percent (28) of LGBTQ characters on broadcast are Black, while cable comes in at 18 percent (37), and streaming counts 14 percent (16) of LGBTQ characters as Black.

“Audiences and activists have demanded that we see diverse faces and that our experiences are represented on screen. This past year, projects with Black people in front of and behind the camera received critical acclaim and achieved major box office success, which comes as no surprise to us," said Rashad Robinson, President of Color of Change. "This season’s primetime scripted broadcast features a new high of Black series regular characters at 22%, and while this is a positive sign, most of Hollywood still fails us. That’s why our voices and our activism matters. We know Hollywood can change, but it won’t happen on its own.”

Latinx representation of all broadcast series regulars on primetime scripted shows tied its record high of eight percent for the third year in a row. This continues to be substantially lower than the estimated 17 percent of the U.S. population that is Latinx. This population is also one of the fastest growing in the U.S.

Streaming series counted the highest percentage of Latinx LGBTQ characters with 24 percent (27). Twelve percent (13) of LGBTQ characters on broadcast are Latinx, as are nine percent (19) of LGBTQ characters on cable.

"According to our friends at GLAAD, the number of Latinx series regulars on primetime broadcast television has remained steady at 8% since last year, and more episodic shows are including predominantly Latinx casts, including CW’s Jane the Virgin and ABC’s Grand Hotel. However, given that Latinos make up 18% of the U.S. population and have a consumer power of $1.7 trillion dollars, Latinos are still the least represented ethnic/racial group in major media. We must continue to work with our partner organizations, including GLAAD, to disseminate the message that business as usual will not continue,” said Alex Nogales, President and CEO of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. “During an extraordinary time in our nation’s history when Donald Trump continues to amplify his racist rhetoric against the immigrant community, American Latinos are rising up, becoming a stronger, more activist force, demanding - not asking - that real change occur industry-wide, and negative, destructive stereotypes will not be tolerated.”

Asian-Pacific Islander (API) representation of series regulars on broadcast hit a high of eight percent this year, but there is still work to do.

Eight percent of LGBTQ characters on broadcast are API, nine percent of LGBTQ characters on cable are API, and API characters make up eight percent of LGBTQ characters on streaming.

Characters with disabilities make up 2.1 percent of all broadcast series regulars. Though this is another record high, it severely underrepresents the actual population of those with a disability. There are eighteen characters on broadcast with a disability. On cable, there are four LGBTQ characters with a disability, and there are six LGBTQ characters with disabilities on streaming. Seven characters counted across all platforms are HIV-positive, up from two characters in the previous report.

“The percentage of series regular characters who have a disability on primetime scripted broadcast television continues to increase, but the numbers remain shameful. While the 2018-19 season will see 18 regular characters with disabilities, versus 16 in 2017-18, that number still vastly underrepresents the actual number of people with disabilities, representing less than one-sixth. Moreover, what does exist is misleading. Almost all portrayals of people with disabilities in media are white and most are male, but disability impacts all. Anyone can join the disability community at any point and people with disabilities come from all communities – including the African American, Asian, Hispanic/Latino, Native American and LGBTQ communities," said RespectAbility President Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi. "We applaud the progress that does exist and commend NBC for having six series regulars with a disability. What people see and hear impacts what they think and feel about themselves and others. Depictions of disability should be focused on the abilities and contributions of people with disabilities, not just the disability. Additionally, even simple inclusion in crowd scenes is important. Like Will and Grace and Modern Family helped to change perceptions of the LGBTQ community, an increase in diverse and authentic portrayals of people with disabilities on television can help to end stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities. With Hollywood striving to boost diversity and inclusion, opening the inclusion umbrella for America’s largest minority – the one-in-five Americans with a disability – is the right thing to do as well as economically smart given that the disability market is valued at more than $1 trillion.”

Read GLAAD's full 2018-19 Where We Are on TV report now at glaad.org/whereweareontv, and you can join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #RepresentationMatters.