Wednesday, October 15, 2003

TV networks improve marks for diversity

By Lynn Elber
The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - The major broadcast networks have made strides in bringing minorities into the television picture, according to a coalition that has worked for four years to force greater diversity on television.

"All of the networks have finally come to the realization it's good business to incorporate people of color into their corporation," Esteban Torres, chairman of the Multi-Ethnic Media Coalition, said at a news conference Monday.

Hispanics have gained in their on-screen representation and in behind-the-scenes employment at ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, but Asian-Americans still lag at all the networks, despite some improvements, the group said.

"The new fall shows are stunning in the near total absence of (Asian-Americans) in any role of significance," said Karen Narasaki of the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition.

The Multi-Ethnic Media Coalition released its fourth annul diversity "report card" on the status of Hispanics and Asian-Americans Monday. The representation of blacks in the television industry will be addressed by the NAACP next week in Washington, D.C.

Every network has progressed since the grades were first handed out, when most received Ds.

Fox was the star pupil for 2003, with a B-plus, according to the National Latino Media Council.

The network was the overall leader in diversity in its programming, employment and in doing business with outside minority vendors, Torres said.

NBC and CBS both earned C-plus, while ABC was given a B by the Hispanic group.

"We're proud of the strides we continue to make year in and year out and we appreciate the acknowledgment," said Mitsy Wilson, senior vice president of diversity for the Fox Entertainment Group.

In a statement, NBC said it has made "measurable progress" in boosting minority representation in its prime-time schedule.

ABC president Alex Wallau, also in a statement, said that achieving diversity "continues to be a high priority."

But Asian-Americans are slighted to the extreme in some shows, including CBS's new drama Joan of Arcadia, Narasaki said.

The actual town of Arcadia, Calif., is heavily Asian-American, but there are no such characters in the TV show, she said.

CBS declined to comment on the report but has said that the town is fictional.

NBC and Fox were the leaders with grades of B-minus on the Asian American group's report card. ABC received a C-minus while CBS was the only network to receive a barely passing grade, a D-plus.

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