OAKLAND, CA - April 20 - A new study on race and gender diversity on television has found that, despite a significant increase in Latino characters on this seasons prime-time TV, Latinos are twice as visible in real life than on television.
The study also found that representations of Asian and Pacific Islander characters declined, Latino and Middle Eastern characters often were typecast and Native American characters were absent. In addition, male characters outnumbered their female counterparts nearly two to one, while females tended to be younger.
The study, Fall Colors 2003-04: Prime Time Diversity Report, is the fourth such report by Children Now, a child research and action organization. It provides a five-year progress report of the major TV networks stated efforts to increase diversity in their shows.
While Children Now researchers praised the progress made by networks in showing more Latino characters, it was tempered by the prevalence of low-paying jobs those characters were likely to have compared to other racial groups. Whites, for example, were three times as likely as Latinos to hold professional occupations such as doctors or lawyers. And although the overall number was small, Latinos were four times as likely as characters of other races to portray domestic workers.
The message prime-time TV sends to kids about the world in which they live is that some racial groups are privileged, while others are under-represented or even invisible, said Patti Miller, director of Children Nows Children & the Media program. Regrettably, the networks have not done nearly enough in the past five years to change this skewed picture.
Among the findings:
The presence of Latino characters rose from four percent of the total prime-time population in the 2001-02 season to more than six percent in 2003-04. Among opening credits cast, the percentage increased threefold, from two percent to six percent. More than half of all primetime shows now include at least one Latino character.
The percentage of Asian/Pacific Islander characters did not increase over the past five years; meanwhile, the percentage of Asian opening credits cast members actually decreased, from two percent in 1999-2000 to one percent this season. The Asian and Latino populations in the U.S. are more than twice those found on prime-time TV.
Nearly two-thirds of all characters were male (65%) while one-third was female (35%), a proportion unchanged in five years. Female characters were younger than male characters: females were more likely to be 19-29, while males were more likely to be 30-39. Researchers said older women were difficult to find on prime-time TV.
Nearly half of Middle Eastern characters (46%) were criminals, compared to 15 percent of Asian/Pacific Islander and Latino characters, 10 percent of African American characters and five percent of white characters. Both Latinos and Middle Easterners were more likely to be criminals than to have a professional job such as a doctor or a judge.
There were no Native American characters in any episode in the studys sample.
As in previous years, the study found that the 8 oclock hour, when children are most likely to be watching, was the least diverse hour of programming on prime time. Similarly, situation comedies, the most popular genre among kids, were the least likely to have racially-mixed casts.
The study examined two episodes of each entertainment series that aired between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. on the six national broadcast networks. No one network was seen to be significantly more diverse than another. The sample did not include mid-season replacements.
Children Now is an independent, nonpartisan research and action organization dedicated to assuring that children grow up in economically secure families, where parents can go to work confident that their children are supported by quality health coverage, a positive media environment, a good early education and safe, enriching activities to do after school.