Number of LGBT characters on US television in decline

With the arrival of the 2007-2008 television season, the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) representations on scripted American network television continues to decline, according to an analysis conducted by the Gay Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

The study shows that, despite improved quality, LGBT representations will represent only 1.1% (7) of all series regular characters in the 2007-08 broadcast television schedule, down from 1.3% (9) in 2006, and 1.4% (10) in 2005.

For 12 years, GLAAD’s Where We Are on TV report has analysed the character makeup of the network’s scripted programming.

From information provided by the five broadcast networks – ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and The CW – GLAAD examined 87 scripted comedies and dramas announced to air this season, and counted a total of 650 characters.

The seven LGBT regular characters appear on five scripted programmes: Brothers Sisters, Desperate Housewives, Ugly Betty, The Office and the midseason series Cashmere Mafia.

Six of these seven characters are on ABC, with no lead or supporting LGBT characters scheduled to appear on CBS, FOX or The CW.

“While we acknowledge there have been improvements made in how we are seen on the broadcast networks, most notably on ABC, our declining representation clearly indicates a failure to inclusively reflect the audience watching television,” says GLAAD President Neil G. Giuliano.

“Striving toward diversity isn’t merely the responsible road to take for broadcasters, but as many of television’s highest-rated programmes demonstrate, it’s also good for business.

“One need only look at the growing viewership of cable networks to see how inclusive programming can attract a wider audience.”

In addition to the seven LGBT series regular characters, 13 semi-regular recurring characters are anticipated to appear during the upcoming network TV season.

This increase in recurring characters from last year’s five suggests that producers and writers are showing a guarded interest in being inclusive without making the characters lead or supporting.

Currently, gay characters on Ugly Betty and Desperate Housewives first appeared as recurring before being added to the regular cast.

As has been the trend for a number of years, the real advances in LGBT representation in US television are being made in cable programming.

A total of 40 series regulars were counted across 21 scripted comedies and dramas scheduled to air on mainstream cable networks this season; 15 more than were counted last year.

These numbers in part reflect a continued commitment to diversity effectively demonstrated by mainstream cable networks such as The N, FX, HBO, Showtime, and BBC America.

Cable networks Logo and here! create additional original scripted programming for a predominantly LGBT audience

The 12th annual Where We Are on TV report marks the third year that GLAAD has analysed the breakdown of the race, gender and ethnicity of all the 650 series regular characters expected to appear on the broadcast networks in the upcoming season.

Male characters continue to outweigh female characters 374 (58%) to 276 (42%) in overall numbers, while 77% (499) of all series regular characters are white, up 2% from last year.

African American representation remains around 12% (81), while Latino/a representation has dropped from 7% to 6% (40).

Of the 18 Asian Pacific Islander characters (3%), six are of Indian descent. The remaining 12 characters (2%) are made up of four who are multi-racial, one of Middle Eastern origin, one Tlingit (Native Alaskan) woman, and six characters not considered to be part of the human race (an alien, talking animals and cavemen).

Despite not having any LGBT characters in its scripted programming, The CW actually ranks first in overall diversity, with 32% of its series characters being people of colour.

The FOX network ranks last, with overall diversity at 18%.

Complete results of GLAAD’s “Where We Are On TV” diversity survey can be accessed here.