The Directors Guild of America has renewed its criticism of TV networks for failing to follow through on promises of improved hiring of female and minority helmers.
“Producers and networks have failed to fulfill their contractual good-faith obligation to hire more women and minority directors,” said DGA prexy Michael Apted, who also chairs the guild’s diversity task force.
“For many years we have publicized the hiring records of the top 40 shows, challenging the industry to open up employment opportunities, but all too often the producers’ and networks’ commitment to diversity is simply not there,” he added.
For the fourth straight season, the guild issued a report on the top 40 primetime shows; results were similar to those of previous seasons.
Review of 865 episodes in 2003-04 showed Caucasian males directed 86%, followed by women directing 7%, African-Americans with 6%, Latinos with 2% and Asian-Americans with 1%. Participation by women dropped from 11% in the previous season, while the African-American numbers doubled from 3%.
Apted noted the guild has provided the nets with long lists of minority and women directors and held extensive meetings with key showrunners to introduce them to those helmers.
Devoid of diversity
The DGA singled out six shows as hiring no women or minority directors — “Friends,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Navy NCIS,” “Becker,” “Less Than Perfect” and “Malcolm in the Middle.”
Nine more shows hired no women directors — “CSI,” “Without a Trace,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “JAG,” “Yes, Dear,” “24,” “According to Jim,” “The District” and “Good Morning, Miami.” And four did not use any minority directors — “Law and Order,” ‘Two and a Half Men,” “Judging Amy” and “8 Simple Rules.”
The DGA also singled out “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Friends” and “JAG” for never hiring a women director over the last four seasons and “Malcolm in the Middle” and “Judging Amy” for not hiring minority directors during that time.
“Everybody may love ‘Raymond,’ but the producers of ‘Raymond’ evidently don’t love women directors,” Apted said. “It is inconceivable in this day and age that a hit show like ‘Raymond,’ ‘Friends’ or ‘JAG’ can’t even hire one women director in four years and over 90 episodes.”
On the flip side, the DGA singled out “Cold Case,” “The Practice,” “Third Watch,” “Frasier” and “ER” for having made good-faith efforts. It noted “ER” and “Third Watch” are produced by John Wells, who operates a mentor program to train three minority and/or women directors each season with a $100,000 stipend each.
“John Wells gave me my first job directing in TV and continues to be the exception in an industry of empty promises,” said Paris Barclay, an Emmy winner and the DGA’s third VP. “I don’t understand why there isn’t even one producer on television willing to make even half of Wells’ commitment.”
Apted also praised efforts by Steve McPherson, prexy of ABC primetime, to spearhead the 4-month-old ABC/Touchstone Directing Assignment Initiative to assign 10 women and minority helmers at least 20 episodes to direct.
ABC said in response, “Since its inception, significant strides have been made, with the assignment of several diverse candidates to directing positions for the 2004-05 primetime season.
“We feel a profound sense of responsibility as broadcasters to achieve true diversity across the entire network, both in front of and behind the camera, and will continue to advance our efforts.”
Report comes five years after a multiethnic coalition issued complaints about the lack of diversity in front of and behind the camera during the fall 1999 TV schedule, then secured pledges from the nets to increase diversity. Since then, the networks have contended they are making significant progress but admit they need to do more.