Little progress in TV

DGA: White men still get most helming gigs

Not that many in Hollywood will be surprised, but, yes, white men are still getting most of the plum jobs in the TV biz.

A Directors Guild of America report released Thursday details the employment of women and minority directors by TV networks on the “top 40” primetime drama and comedy series for the past three seasons.

It shows that, for the third year in a row, Caucasian males directed more than 80% of series episodes, while women and minority directors continue to be absent from some top series.

“CSI” and “24” took particularly hard knocks in the report, while “ER,” “Frasier” and “Third Watch” were singled out for their positive efforts. “The Bernie Mac Show” was lauded for having the most enlightened hiring practices.

The study comes as the NAACP finishes its update of a diversity initiative in the TV biz undertaken with other minority orgs three years ago.

The DGA report reveals that in the 2002-03 season, 13 of the top 40 shows have not hired minority directors, 10 have not hired women directors and three have excluded both women and minority directors.

“The report reveals that once again, the producers and the networks have failed to fulfill their contractual good-faith obligation to hire more women and minority directors,” DGA president Martha Coolidge said.

“Although for many years we have challenged the industry to open up employment opportunities for women and minorities, and last year made explicit the hiring records of the top 40 shows, it is clear that the producers’ and the networks’ commitment to diversity is not reflected in their hiring of directors.”

Network reps, however, claim they are making progress in hiring minorities and women and say more examples will be on display in the upcoming season.

Fox senior VP for diversity Mitzi Wilson said her company is “moving the ball” and that progress is “incremental.”

“We actively look to staff women and minority directors on all our shows, and I think we’ve overall done a good job,” she said.

As for Fox’s hit “24,” Wilson points out that black helmer Kevin Hooks is on board to direct a couple of episodes this coming season, but was now available this past season.

This season is the third in a row for which the guild has tracked the hiring records of the top 40 primetime drama series and sitcoms.

The most recent report shows that of the 860 episodes studied in 2002-03, Caucasian males directed 705 (82%); women directed 92 (11%); African Americans, 43 (5%); Latinos, 14 (2%); and Asian Americans, eight (1%).

The statistics are virtually unchanged from the past two years. The single exception is in the hiring of black directors, which has increased from 3% (2000-01 season) to 5% (in the most recent season) of episodes directed.

Three fail

Among the most egregious examples of exclusion this past season, according to the DGA, were “CSI: Miami” (CBS/CBS Broadcasting), “Yes, Dear” (CBS/20th Century Fox Film) and “24” (Fox/20th Century Fox Film). These series failed to employ either women or minority directors in the just ended season.

Thirteen of the top 40 series hired no minority directors in the 2002-03 season: “CSI: Miami,” “Yes, Dear,” “24,” “Eight Simple Rules,” “Good Morning Miami,” “My Big Fat Greek Life,” “Judging Amy,” “NYPD Blue,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” “Becker,” “Providence,” “Hidden Hills” and “According to Jim.”

Ten of the top 40 hired no women directors in the 2002-03 season: “CSI: Miami,” “Yes, Dear,” “24,” “CSI,” “Friends,” “JAG,” “King of Queens,” “My Wife and Kids,” “Boomtown” and “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

“The DGA finds the lack of effort by producers and networks in women and minority hiring to be deplorable,” Coolidge said.

“We are prepared to use all available resources at our disposal to change this unacceptable situation and are exploring all options to ensure that the good-faith effort to increase diversity in hiring practices called for under the Basic Agreement is demonstrated through action, not words.”

The report singled out a dozen other shows for their three-year pattern of zero or token efforts in hiring women and/or minority directors, including hits like “Everybody Loves Raymond” and “Friends.”

“CSI,” for example, hired a woman to direct one of its 69 episodes in the past three seasons. The show hired minorities to direct only two episodes in the past three seasons.

Three series did receive kudos from the DGA: “Third Watch” (NBC/Warner Bros.) hired women and minorities to direct 32 out of 73 total episodes (44%) over the past three seasons. “Frasier” (NBC/Paramount) hired women and minorities to direct 26 out of 67 total episodes (39%) over the past three seasons. And “ER” (NBC/Warner Bros.) hired women and minorities to direct 16 out of 62 total episodes (26%) over the past three seasons.

One newer show has shown exemplary effort in its director hiring record: “The Bernie Mac Show” (Fox/Regency Prods.) hired women and minorities to direct 32 of its 47 episodes (68%) over the past two seasons.

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