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LOS ANGELES — After a decrease last year, the number of regular LGBT characters on broadcast networks has risen to the highest ever recorded, while the overall LGBT character count also increased on cable television, GLAAD’s annual study finds.
The nation’s LGBT media advocacy and anti-defamation organization today released the annual “Where We Are on TV” report; a comprehensive review of scripted LGBT primetime characters in the upcoming 2012-13 television season.
The report also calculates the ethnic and racial diversity of all scripted regular characters on primetime broadcast television and found an increase in the number of black characters while Latino/a representations declined.
“This year’s increase of LGBT characters on television reflects a cultural change in the way gay and lesbian people are seen in our society,” said Herndon Graddick, GLAAD president.
“More and more Americans have come to accept their LGBT family members, friends, coworkers, and peers, and as audiences tune into their favorite programs, they expect to see the same diversity of people they encounter in their daily lives.”
The report shows that LGBT characters account for 4.4% of scripted series regulars in the 2012-13 broadcast television schedule. This is up from 2.9% in 2011, 3.9% in 2010, 3% in 2009, 2.6% in 2008 and 1.1% in 2007.
Regular LGBT characters on scripted cable television also rose this year to 35 (up from 29) for the 2012-13 season.
Which networks fared the best?
From research and information provided by the five broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and The CW — GLAAD's study reviewed 97 scripted television programs scheduled to air this upcoming season on the broadcasts networks, and counted a total of 701 series regular characters. 31 of those are LGBT, as are an additional 19 recurring characters.
• ABC has the highest amount with 5.2% (10 out of 194) of their regular characters identifying as LGBT.
• After leading last year, Fox is in second with six LGBT characters out of 118 total series regulars (5.1%). The CW will feature four regular LGBT characters out of 81 total (4.9%), while NBC will feature seven regular LGBT characters out of 166 (4.2%).
• CBS also improved and will feature four LGBT characters out of 142 series regulars (2.8%), up from 0.7% last year. This improvement and the addition of a gay lead character demonstrate an authentic and conscious effort by CBS to improve its diversity.
On mainstream cable networks, the number of announced LGBT series regular characters has also increased to 35, and will also feature 26 recurring characters for a total of 61 LGBT characters.
• This year Showtime features the greatest number of LGBT characters on cable with 12; seven of which are series regulars.
• Also making a significant contributions to the count are HBO (9 characters), FX (8), Adult Swim (5) and ABC Family, MTV, Syfy, and TeenNick (with 4 characters each).
• Once again this year “True Blood” is the most inclusive show on cable television with six gay, lesbian or bisexual characters.
“It is vital for networks to weave complex and diverse storylines of LGBT people in the different programs they air,” Graddick said. “When young LGBT people see loving couples like Callie and Arizona on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ or ‘Degrassi's’ confident transgender high school student Adam Torres, they find characters they can look up to and slowly start building the courage to live authentically.”
Breakdown on race/ethnicity and gender
This also marks the eighth year that GLAAD has analyzed the race/ethnicity and gender demographics of all 701 series regular characters expected to appear on primetime broadcast television in the upcoming season.
Male characters continue to outweigh female characters 55.5% (389) to 44.5% (312) in overall numbers, while 78% (547) of all series regular characters are white. Compared to last year, African-American representation has increased from 9.9% to 12% (84) while Latino/a representation has decreased from 5.6% to 4.1% (29). There were 33 Asian-Pacific Islander characters (4.7%) which is similar to last year’s figure. This also marks the third year in a row that GLAAD counted people with disabilities (PWD), who will make up just four of all regular characters (0.6%).
Of the 31 announced LGBT regular characters in the 2012-13 primetime broadcast season, 11 are people of color (35.5%), and one will be PWD. In one area that has seen great improvement, GLAAD counted seven regular or recurring black LGBT characters on broadcast television, while last year counted none at all.
For the first time, GLAAD has asked other media advocacy groups to weigh in on our findings, and provide additional insight into why diversity on television is so important to many different communities in the United States. This year’s report contains additional perspectives from the National Hispanic Media Coalition, the Asian-Pacific Media Coalition, SAG-AFTRA, and Missrepresentation.org.
This research serves as a benchmark for GLAAD's advocacy efforts which call for fair, accurate and diverse LGBT representations across media platforms. The characters in the “Where We Are On TV” report will later be reviewed for GLAAD's Network Responsibility Index (NRI), released annually each summer, which grades networks on overall LGBT impressions.