People who identify as Hispanic or Latinx make up 18.5% of the United States’ population, but as a Hollywood Diversity Report TV analysis from UCLA released today indicates, the country’s demographic reality is not being reflected on our small screens.
In fact, the share of total cast roles in television for the 2019-2020 season for Latinx actors stood at just 6.3% for broadcast, 5.7% for cable and 5.5% for digital. Though in broadcast Latinx actors were slightly more prominent, standing at 7.1%, numbers still remained flat last year, with 3.9% cast in cable main roles and 4.7% in digital. While the report showed that TV content from diverse writers’ rooms and/or with diverse casts resonated with audiences during the pandemic, Latinx actors, directors and writers still remain largely shunned by the industry. The report analyzed key job categories, as well as ratings and social media engagement scores, for 461 scripted shows across 50 television programming providers.
More from Variety
“This UCLA report clearly demonstrates that more work is necessary to achieve more accurate representation and truly authentic portrayals in American television,” said Joaquin Castro, U.S. Congressman for Texas, in a statement. “I hope this report encourages entertainment executives to reevaluate their systems for recruiting, retaining and promoting Latinx talent, work in earnest to make changes and create a more inclusive culture.”
Furthermore, the UCLA report’s analysts estimated that Latinx directors were responsible for only 5.4% of the episodes in broadcast, 3.5% in cable and 3% in digital. Latinx representation amongst credited writers remained just as bleak, with just 4.8% in broadcast, 4.7% in cable and 4.3% in digital.
“Diversifying the workforce means bringing equity to the economy and ensuring inclusionary practices in Hollywood,” added Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo (AD-51, Los Angeles). “As Latinos make up the largest population in the state of California, yet only a dismal percentage in Hollywood, I’m looking forward to ensuring the Latinx community is not subsidizing its own exclusion via California’s Film Tax Credit Program which the Legislature oversees.” Per census data, 48.6% of Los Angeles’ population identifies as Hispanic or Latinx, and in the 2019-2020 season, roughly 22-35% of shows were made in the city.
However, some of the report’s major takeaways evidence an appetite for diverse content and showcased a significant amount of gains for TV representation for people of color as a whole, though there is still plenty of room for improvement in terms of reflecting the makeup of America.
“The fact that shows with diverse writers’ rooms did well last year also illustrates that audiences are looking for authentic portrayals,” continued Darnell Hunt, co-author and dean of UCLA’s division of social sciences, where the report, now in its eighth installment, is produced. Researchers found that the median ratings were highest for broadcast scripted shows in which people of color were credited with writing between 31% and 40% of the episodes across the board in Asian, Latinx, Black and white households.
All groups combined, people of color made up 40.5% of total casts on cable and 38.4% on digital, and, overall, people of color directed 25.8% of broadcast episodes in 2019-2020, 27.2% of cable and 21.4% of digital, up from 24.3% and, 22.9% and 18.2% in the previous year’s season. Moreover, people of color wrote 26.4% of broadcast episodes last season, 28.6% of cable and 24.2% of digital — up from the 2018-2019 season, standing at 23.4% in broadcast, 25.8% in cable and 22.8% in digital.
“There was some growth across the board in show creators, which is critical because that is a position that holds great influence over how and whose stories are told,” said Ana-Christina Ramón, Hollywood Diversity Report co-author and the director of research and civic engagement in the UCLA division of social sciences. “We also see that when women and people of color hold high-level creative positions, there is greater diversity down the line in casting and likely for crew hiring as well,” she said. “Women and especially people of color are still very underrepresented in these and other behind-the-camera jobs, which is why this report continues to exist.”
Other key insights from the 78-page report include:
Cable scripted shows with majority-minority casts had the highest social media engagement on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Engagement for digital shows with majority-minority casts was highest on Twitter, followed by shows with casts that featured less than 11% of minority representation.
Roles for women in 2019-2020 came very close to parity with men in all three platforms. Women made up 46.3% of the total cast in broadcast scripted shows, 45.3% in cable and 46.9% in digital, and women comprised 42.8% of writers’ rooms on cable shows, 41.1% on broadcast and 42% on digital.
The representation of women of color writers increased by 2.8% on cable shows compared to the prior year (16.1%), and by 1.4% on digital shows from 2018-2019 (14%).
Out of a total of the 2,932 credited actors tracked for the 2019-2020 season, just 13 were Indigenous persons. Three of those roles went to Indigenous women.
Trans and non-binary actors were virtually absent across all platforms analyzed.
In the earliest iteration of the UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report, just 2% of broadcast shows had majority-minority casts for the 2011-2012 season. Now, 32.1% of the shows tracked had majority-minority casts, highlighting how far the entertainment industry has gone (and how much more it needs to go) in making television more inclusive.
Best of Variety