SAG, WGA to sponsor event

U.S. Labor Secretary Alexis Herman and top network and studio execs are expected to attend a key meeting next month to improve racial diversity in entertainment programming.

Event, sponsored by the Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America, has been set up amid increased efforts by the guilds and the NAACP to pressure Hollywood to include representative numbers of minorities on television shows and in movies.

Meeting, expected to be held in the Los Angeles area, will come several months after the four major TV networks agreed to increase diversity at all levels of their organizations. In addition, SAG released a study last month showing that African-American characters on primetime TV had become “ghettoized” — concentrated in sitcoms Monday and Friday nights and on the UPN and WB networks.

SAG drew more than 100 members to a post-Oscar meeting Monday night at the House of Blues to discuss methods of expanding diversity in TV and movies.

“Our common agenda is that networks and studios need to reflect the reality of America,” declared George Takei, who sat on a panel of activists and experts at the event. “The networks went 10 steps back this season. We’re not going to trust them.”

Takei, best known for his role as Sulu in the “Star Trek” series, said networks are overlooking the massive buying power of minorities by failing to include representative numbers on TV shows.

“If you present the reality of America, you will be enormously successful,” he added.

USC sociology professor Darnell Hunt, who conducted the SAG survey, urged the audience to push for minorities to become writers and executives. “Until that happens, we’re going to be begging,” he noted.

Researcher Henry Pachon of the Tomas Rivera Institute, which conducted last year’s SAG study on Latino portrayals in programming, said executives often appear to overlook the economic clout and strong interest in TV and movies that minorities represent.

“We have been told that minorities have a strong moral case for inclusion but the marketing case has to be developed,” he added.

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