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Special Report - Diversity in Entertainment: Why Is TV So White?

I usually simply shrug when I read articles like this one, because we seem to get at least one every year from a major publication (in this case Entertainment Weekly) - in short, what we have here is another lament on the lack of diversity on the small screen... essentially what some call a "whitewash" of American network television. Is any of what is said in the article a surprise? Is it going to shock anyone? Absolutely not!

The article is titled: Special Report - Diversity in Entertainment: Why Is TV So White?

Good question! A question that's been asked by many for years, but effective answers that provide permanent solutions are still forever lacking. Is it fear? Is it just plain laziness? The article (like so many others before it) discusses the problem, stating varied facts, and attempts an answer. But, as I said, it's not that we lack solutions to the problem. We are swimming in them, I think. The problem as I see it is one of will - which is why I ask - fear or laziness? Below are several poignant pieces I snipped from the article.


- 1 out of every 3 persons in the United States is a minority,''... ''One could argue that a third of all those working in Hollywood should be a minority. However...their presence is not accurately represented on-air and for the most part, their stories are secondary or non-existent.

- After nearly 10 years of working with diversity reps and outreach programs, the networks still primarily solve the problem by sprinkling nonwhite actors into white-led shows — often as a comedic sidekick or in guy-who-helps-the-main-guy-solve-a-crime roles. Brock Akil calls the solution ''very transparent. I think the audience can see right through that. If it's not organic, people are going to be like, 'Oh, you're just pandering to me.''' Instead of pumping up their percentages with supporting characters, shouldn't the networks be presenting more minority ''face of the show'' leads?

- But while NBC provided a widely accessible platform for Cosby to reach a mainstream audience, minority shows have been increasingly consigned to fledgling networks since the early 1990s as TV spread beyond the Big Three. ''That's usually how upstart networks become viable'... ''They target an underserved audience — which is usually African-American, Latino, and [other] minorities — so they can get some numbers. Then once they become a little bit more financially viable, they move into mainstream programming. That's what Fox did. That's what UPN did. That's what the WB did. So that audience tends to get handed off to the next upstart network. It's like a relay race and we're the baton.'' But while that strategy may be good for business, it's hindered the crossover potential of shows like Girlfriends and Everbody Hates Chris. ''A lot of it is about access"... ''If you have a choice between Friends and Girlfriends, and you're used to watching Friends on NBC, why are you going to switch over to Girlfriends? But if Girlfriends comes on after Friends, you may stick around for it.''

- ''It was always easy for whites to run black shows or get jobs on black shows, but it was always tough for the reverse''... ''Very few blacks get jobs on non black shows. So with a lot of black shows going away, fewer and fewer black writers get opportunities, let alone get the chance to be mentored and learn how to run and create shows.

Read the entire article HERE.


  1. Nic said...

    I'm with you on this one, Obenson.
    We get one of these "reports" at least once a year, but the status quo continues.

    My personal belief is that as long as the people in power at the networks/studios, etc are white, they will continue to put people in roles that look like them.

    And is part of the reason we only see shows with dominate white casts have to do with the advertisers? I know advertisers buy space on shows that their target market watches (18-34, white, female, etc.)

  2. albertine said...

    You and Nic said it. We get these reports every year but see no results. But I won't say that they are completely pointless. I suppose it's good to keep the discussion in the air. There might be people out there who aren't as informed. Fox used to be a fledgling station like WB and UPN, and now it's a powerhouse along with the other 3 (NBC, CBS and ABC). I wonder if there's room for another, maybe one that caters to "minority" audiences.

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