Film and TV lack in representation both in front of and behind the camera, USC research finds

By Jessica Derschowitz
Updated February 22, 2016 at 12:00 PM EST
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Credit: Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

A new study released Monday — just days before the Oscars are handed out amid the conversation surrounding a lack of diversity in this year’s nominees — finds there is an “inclusion crisis” for women, people of color, and the LGBT community in Hollywood as a whole.

The Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity (CARD), released by the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, examined 109 films released by major studios and their art-house divisions in 2014, along with 305 television and digital series across 31 networks and streaming services. More than 11,000 speaking characters were examined for gender, racial and ethnic representation, and LGBT status. Some 10,000 directors, writers, and show creators were also analyzed, as was the gender of more than 1,500 executives at different media companies.

Just 28.3 percent of all speaking characters across 414 films, television, and digital episodes in 2014-2015 were from “underrepresented racial/ethnic groups,” the study reported — almost 10 percentage points less than the makeup of the U.S. population — and 33.5 percent of speaking characters were female. Two percent of all speaking characters identified as LGBT, and only seven transgender characters appeared in the films and shows evaluated for the study.

Behind the camera, women made up just 15.2 percent of all directors and 28.9 percent of writers. The study also found that less than one-quarter (22.6 percent) of series creators across broadcast, cable, and streaming content were women.

“This is no mere diversity problem. This is an inclusion crisis,” Stacy L. Smith, Founding Director of the MDSC Initiative and the author of the study, said in a news release. “Over half of the content we examined features no Asian or Asian-American characters, and over 20 percent featured no African-American characters. It is clear that the ecosystem of entertainment is exclusionary.”

The CARD study also an “inclusion index” that graded 10 media companies based on their representation of women and people of color both in front of and behind the camera. None of the six film distributors studied received a passing grade on the index. Television and digital content outlets scored higher, with the Walt Disney Company and the CW Network recognized as the strongest performers in television, while Hulu and Amazon tied for streaming content.

“Organizations can take steps to solve inequality,” said Marc Choueiti, one of the study authors. “Our hope is that companies begin to implement these solutions and that the numbers will improve.”Data curated by PrettyFamous

You can read more on the study at USC’s website.

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