GLAAD report shows LGBTQ inclusion on television at record high

By : John Paul King OF THE WASHINGTON BLADE, COURTESY OF THE NATIONAL LGBT MEDIA ASSOCIATION
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ABOVE: Daniel Levy of “Schitt’s Creek,” Ruby Rose of “Batwoman,” MJ Rodriguez of “Pose.” Photos courtesy “Schitt’s Creek,” “Batwoman” and “Pose” Facebook pages.

The mood was light and spirits were high at the offices of United Talent Agency in Beverly Hills Nov. 7, as GLAAD held the presentation of its “Where We Are On TV” report for 2019-2020

The report was authored by GLAAD Director of Entertainment Research and Analysis Megan Townsend, who told the gathered crowd of journalists and industry professionals that the percentage of regular LGBTQ characters on broadcast television reached an all-time high in 2019 – exceeding last year’s challenge by the organization to reach 10 percent inclusion on primetime scripted series by 2020.

According to the report’s findings, networks met and exceeded this call in just one year, with a record-high percentage of LGBTQ series regulars on broadcast television at 10.2% of all series regulars. This number is up from last year’s 8.8% – which was at that time the record high – and is the highest percentage since GLAAD expanded to count all broadcast series regulars 15 years ago.

In addition, for the first time in this report’s history, there were more women than men among regular and recurring broadcast TV characters, with women making up 53 percent and men 47 percent.

The report also found that racial diversity of LGBTQ characters on broadcast and cable had increased significantly.

Out of the 120 LGBTQ regular and recurring characters on broadcast, 62 (52%) are people of color, a two percent increase from last year amounting to six more characters. It’s the second year in a row where LGBTQ people of color have outnumbered white LGBTQ people on broadcast, which is the only platform to hit the goal of having at least half of LGBTQ characters be characters of color.

On cable, out of 215 LGBTQ characters counted, 103 (48%) are people of color, which is an increase of two percentage points from last year.

Streaming television saw a decrease, with 63 (41%) people of color out of a total of 153 LGBTQ characters – seven points down from last year’s report.

Across all platforms tracked, representation numbers are up on several other fronts. The total number of transgender characters has increased to 38 from last year’s 26; bisexual+ characters posted a slight increase in characters though a one percentage point drop overall; and there are nine characters with HIV/AIDS, up from seven last year.

In addition, the report found a record-high percentage of Latinx series regulars (up from 8% to 9%), a record-tying number of black series regulars (held steady at 22%), and a record-tying number of Asian Pacific Islander series regulars (held steady at 8%) across broadcast television.

Following the presentation of the report’s findings there was a panel discussion led by Deadline’s Dino-Ray Ramos, with participants including GLAAD President & CEO Sarah Kate Ellis, UTA partner and television talent agent Jacob Fenton, comedian/actress Sabrina Jalees (“Carol’s Second Act”), Gloria Calderón Kellett (executive producer, showrunner, director, and actor, “One Day at a Time”), actress Nicole Maines (Supergirl), Marja-Lewis Ryan (executive producer and showrunner, “The L Word: Generation Q”), and actor Brian Michael Smith (“The L Word: Generation Q,” “Queen Sugar,” “9-1-1: Lone Star”). The conversation overall emphasized the encouraging progress indicated by the report, while reinforcing the importance of equal representation across the spectrum of LGBTQ experience and acknowledging the positive impact felt by the increasing inclusion of LGBTQ voices among the teams creating television content.

“However,” noted Townsend in a statement, “there is still work to be done.”

“On cable TV,” she said, “just three networks account for 44 percent of all LGBTQ representation on primetime scripted series. Similarly, programming from four dedicated producers and creators who prioritize inclusion, Greg Berlanti, Lena Waithe, Ryan Murphy, and Shonda Rhimes, accounts for 14 percent of total LGBTQ characters across broadcast, cable, and streaming originals. We hope to see all networks follow their lead, and work towards reflecting the reality of their audience and the culture.”

Ellis summed up the findings by saying, “Last year, GLAAD called on the television industry to increase the number of LGBTQ characters and more accurately reflect the world we live in, and they responded by exceeding this challenge. At a time when the cultural climate is growing increasingly divisive, increased representation of LGBTQ stories and characters on television is especially critical to advance LGBTQ acceptance. Shows like ‘Pose,’ ‘Schitt’s Creek,’ ‘Batwoman,’ and ‘Billions’ demonstrate that not only are LGBTQ stories and characters on TV becoming more diverse, but that viewers everywhere continue to respond with extreme positivity.””

She announced that GLAAD will now call on the industry to ensure that 20 percent of series regular characters on primetime scripted broadcast series are LGBTQ by 2025, as well as make sure that half of LGBTQ characters on every platform are people of color within the next two years.

The “Where We Are on TV” report analyzes the overall diversity of primetime scripted series regulars on broadcast networks and assesses the number of LGBTQ characters on cable networks and original scripted streaming series on the services Amazon, Hulu, and Netflix for the 2019-2020 TV season. This marks the 24th year that GLAAD has tracked the presence of LGBTQ characters on television.

You can read the full report here.

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