Study: White men continue to dominate network television

Tuesday, May 1st 2001, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ More than a year after the major TV networks agreed to better reflect America's ethnic mix, broadcasters continue to marginalize minorities and women, according to a new study.

Overall, network television remains a white man's world, the advocacy group Children Now concludes in its study of ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, UPN and WB. The group conducted a similar study of the 1999-2000 TV season.

The prime-time sitcoms most likely to draw younger viewers offer the least diversity on television, according to the report released Tuesday.

A viewer watching TV on any given night during the 2000-01 season would most likely see featured ``a thirty-something, white male'' working in a professional job, the study said.

The vast majority of the character's friends and co-workers also would be white professional men. Minorities appear mostly to provide ``a service, a piece of information or a punch line,'' the study said.

Most of the networks, except CBS, refused comment Monday. Some said they declined because they had yet to see the report. A Children Now spokesman said copies of the study were mailed to the networks two weeks ago.

``We believe that CBS has made tremendous strides to increase its diversity on screen, behind the camera and in the executive suites,'' network spokesman Chris Ender said. ``However, we certainly recognize that more can be done and more will be done.''

Situation comedies, the most popular genre among children, are the least diverse programs on TV, the study said. Only 14 percent have ethnically mixed casts, while the vast majority tend to feature all white or, in a few cases, all black characters.

In comparison, mixed leading casts are featured on two-thirds (67 percent) of the programs, mostly dramas, airing during the 10 p.m. PDT hour. That's when the fewest children are watching, the study said.

The study questioned the message segregated sitcoms are sending young viewers, noting that a 1999 Children Now poll found 12- to 17-year-olds chose comedians as their top TV role models.

The picture was brighter for some ethnic groups, dimmer for others. While the number of black characters in network series increased to 17 percent from 13 percent, Hispanics dropped from 3 percent to 2 percent. Asian Pacific American characters increased from 2 percent to 3 percent.

By comparison, blacks and Hispanics each make up about 12 percent of the U.S. population and Asian Pacific Americans are 9 percent, according to 2000 census figures.

Women aren't faring well on television either: There are twice as many male as female characters, and the women tend to be cookie-cutter ``beautiful, young, thin and white'' and motivated mostly by looks and love, researchers said.

The study didn't include a network-by-network breakdown because there were no significant differences among the six broadcasters, Children Now said.

``We're still in the same world we were in in 1999. It's still a white guy's world,'' said Alex Nogales, chairman of the National Hispanic Media Coalition, which joined with the NAACP and others to gain network agreements last year for increased diversity in front of and behind the camera. ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox signed the agreements.

Children Now, based in Oakland, is a nonpartisan group that focuses on the needs of American children.


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