Damning With Faint Praise
NAACP sees an increase in minorities on television but not behind the cameras
By Melanie Clarke -- Broadcasting & Cable, 11/2/2003 7:00:00 PM
The number of minority actors in prime time on the Big Four networks increased 23% in the past year, from 288 in the 2001-02 season to 375 in 2002-03, according to a survey released last week by the NAACP.
|Minorities on Both Sides of the Camera|
|SOURCE: NAACP Diversity Report; B&C research
NAACP President and CEO Kweisi Mfume called the gain "modest," however, and said the numbers of minorities behind the cameras "remain virtually frozen."
The survey showed that, from 2001-02 to 2002-03, minorities in "regular and recurring" roles on Fox rose from 74 to 121; on NBC, from 54 to 81; on ABC, from 66 to 74; and on CBS, from 94 to 99.
By the NAACP's definition, minorities comprise African-Americans, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans.
"Although there appear to be small gains in on-air roles," Mfume said, "there is practically no representation of people of color in the top echelon of production, which is the nucleus of the industry."
Fox employs the highest number of minority actors, even with seven fewer hours of programming than the other three nets. However, a study conducted at UCLA by Dr. Chon Noriega showed lower numbers than Fox reports.
ABC TV Network President Alex Wallau, noting that diversity is a high priority, said, "While we have made significant strides in certain areas, we fully recognize that we still have more work to do."
From the 2001-02 season to 2002-03, writing/producing positions for minorities increased 78 to 113 at the four networks, the NAACP survey finds. Minority directors increased from 79 to 97 at the Big Four combined.
"Our work is not done," an NBC spokesperson said, "but this significant progress is a testament to NBC's strong commitment to diversity."
Mfume criticized the network news divisions, calling the lack of minorities covering news and serving as guests and panelists "systemic and institutional discrimination." The news divisions need to be sensitized, he said, to dispel the perception that minorities lack the skills to fill those roles.
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