Study dings TV diversity

Shuttering of urban-oriented networks affects numbers

Women and minority writers remain significantly underrepresented on the staffs of TV shows, according to a preliminary report by the Writers Guild of America West.

The WGA released the findings from its 2006 Hollywood Writers Report on Monday in conjunction with the upfronts in Gotham. Guild said hiring practices involving women, minority and older writers remained consistent with previous years but noted that the upcoming 2006-07 staffing season looked “increasingly grim” following the recent shuttering of urban-oriented networks UPN and WB to create the CW.

“These statistics should remind everyone in a position to affect decisions during this hiring season of the underemployment of minority and female writers in series television,” said board member Melissa Rosenberg, chair of the guild’s diversity strategy committee. “The situation will look worse a year from now with the loss of UPN. That outcome can be prevented and, instead, progress can be made if intentional steps are taken to reach beyond familiarity, tapping diverse writers at all levels, promoting those already working and seeking out new writers in these underrepresented groups.”

Job slots filled by women increased to 542, or 29.3%, during the 2005-06 TV season, up from 447, or 28.4%. The WGA noted that women, who comprise 51% of the nation’s population, remain underrepresented by nearly 2 to 1.

Minority writers saw job slots increase by seven to 206, but their share declined to 12% from 13% amid gains in the overall number of writers on TV shows. Guild noted that with minorities comprising more than 30% of the population, they remain underrepresented on television staffs by nearly 3 to 1.

The WGA pointed out that the 130 black writers hired last season were concentrated among shows airing on UPN, which employed 58 of those scribes.

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