TV Diversity Hits Record Highs Onscreen in 2016-17 Season, GLAAD Study Reveals

Diversity Casting in Television
Courtesy of ABC/CBS/NBC

The 2016-17 broadcast television season will see record-high representation of LGBTQ, black, and disabled characters, according to a new report by GLAAD.

The newest installment of the advocacy organization’s “Where We Are on TV” report found that 4.8% of all broadcast series-regular characters expected to appear in the coming season are LGBTQ — the highest percentage in study’s 21-year history. Black characters accounted for 20% of all broadcast series regulars, and characters with disabilities for 1.7% — both also all-time highs. Across broadcast, cable and streaming, the number of transgender series regulars more than doubled from seven last season to 16 this season.

“While it is heartening to see progress being made in LGBTQ representation on television, it’s important to remember that numbers are only part of the story, and we must continue the push for more diverse and intricate portrayals of the LGBTQ community,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD president and CEO. “GLAAD will continue to work with Hollywood to tell nuanced LGBTQ stories that accelerate acceptance – and hold the networks, streaming services, and content creators accountable for the images and storylines they present.”

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The “Where We Are On TV” study forecasts all anticipated series-regular characters from June 1 2016 to May 31 2017.

The report paid special attention to the so-called “bury your gays” trope, a response to the seemingly large number of LGBTQ characters killed off television shows in recent months. GLAAD found that more than 25 lesbian and bisexual female characters on scripted television have died since the beginning of 2016.

GLAAD also reported a dearth of racial diversity among LGBTQ characters on cable and streaming platforms, with 72% of all LGBTQ characters on the former platform counted as white and 71% on the latter. And it found representation for black and bisexual characters to be skewed along gender lines. Only 38% of black characters on broadcast are female. Of 21 bisexual female characters, 15 are women and only six are men.

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