The annual GLAAD “Where We Are on TV” survey released today (Oct. 1) revealed an increase in the number of LGBT characters on network television shows after a decline in the 2013-2014 television season.
Overall, LGBT characters will make up 3.9 percent of series regulars across ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX and The CW scripted shows in the current television season. This is a 0.6 percent increase from last years 3.3 percent.
FOX lead the broadcast networks with 6.5 percent of its primetime broadcast scripted regulars identifying as gay, lesbian or bisexual. ABC came in second (4.5 percent), followed by NBC (3.8 percent) and CBS (3.2 percent). The CW came last, having dropped all of its LGBT identifying characters from its primetime schedule. Last year, the network boasted 3 percent.
FOX also leads the pack in diversity, with 32 percent of its primetime scripted regulars being people of color while 68 percent are white. CBS came in last there with 80 percent of their primetime regular casts being white and only 20 percent being people of color.
Women took a hit in visibility for the 2014-15 casting season. Females make up 40 percent of season regulars, down from 43 percent last year and 45 percent the year before. People with disabilities will only make up 1.4 percent of this season’s regulars.
What the GLAAD survey shows is that while in general broadcast television is making small gains in increasing visibility for underrepresented groups (in most categories, anyway), the display of characters on primetime television is nowhere close to reflecting the diversity of the real America. For example, Latino characters will make up 8 percent of this season’s regular characters — a big increase over last year — but according to the most recent census, Latino people make up 16 percent of the American population.
When you add up the total percentages across all five networks, there are only 65 characters of 813 scripted regulars that identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual. No broadcast network has scripted a transgender person as a series regular.
In GLAAD’s adjacent “Network Responsibility Index” survey, which ranks networks based on not only the number of LGBT characters they feature but how they feature them, they commend Netflix’s “Orange Is the New Black” and Amazon’s new hit “Transparent” for profiling leading transgender characters. GLAAD announces in the survey that beginning next year a network must feature at least one regular transgender character to even be considered for an “Excellent” rating.
The “NRI” survey gave its highest markings to MTV, ABC Family and HBO, showing that youth skewed networks are embracing LGBT characters and storylines in their programming. MTV has LGBT characters on many of its primetime shows including “Faking It,” “Teen Wolf” and “Awkward.” ABC Family scored serious points for “The Fosters” which not only centers on a mixed race lesbian couple but also featured a transgender storyline during Callie’s stay in a group home.
As streaming services and youth skewed channels continue to lead the way in taking on LGBT storylines — isn’t it about time the broadcast networks caught up? Is it enough to inch to progress or can real, swift progress be made to present broadcast television that reflects the world we actually live in?