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TV Writers See Little Diversity Progress, WGA Reports

Women and minority writers have seen minimal progress in television, the Writers Guild of America West has reported.

The guild’s television staff brief found that female writers accounted for 29% of TV staff employment during the 2013-14 season, down from 30.5%. Minorities accounted for 13.7% during the 2013-14 season, down from 15.6%.

“Over the years, the fortunes of diverse writers in the television sector have ebbed and flowed,” said the report author Darnell M. Hunt, director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. “While the general pattern consists of an upward trajectory in diverse sector employment, the rate of progress has failed to keep pace with the rapid diversification of the nation’s population.”

The WGAW’s 2015 report examines employment patterns for nearly 3,000 writers working on close to 300 TV shows airing on 36 broadcast and cable networks during the 2013-14 season.

Hunt said the report carries implications for the TV industry’s bottom line.

“Indeed, research is beginning to confirm the common-sense notion that increasingly diverse audiences desire more diverse storytelling,” he said. “When diverse voices are marginalized or missing altogether in the writers’ room, it is less likely that the stories told will hit the mark.”

Other key findings in the report:

— 61.2% of minority staff writers worked on 60-minute shows, while only 38.2%  worked on 30-minute shows.

— There was substantial under-representation in the category of latenight, talk and gameshows with women in only 18% of staff positions and minorities in just 3.5%.

— Minorities occupied only 5.5% of executive producer positions during the 2013-14 season, down from 7.8% in 2011-12.

— Minorities had 16.1% of the positions at ABC, 14.2% at NBC, 13.9% at Fox and 11.3% at CBS.

“Much work remains to be done before diverse writers are adequately incorporated into the television industry, and we are losing ground in this effort as the nation races toward the not-too-distant day when it becomes majority minority,” Hunt said. “Findings like these highlight a glaring disconnect between the increasing diversity of audiences and business-as-usual practices in the Hollywood industry. The fact is that writers’ rooms simply do not reflect the America of today or the America that is steadily emerging.”

The WGA West also announced Tuesday its honorees in the TV Writer Access Project — aimed at to identifying and recognizing “outstanding, yet underutilized, diverse writing talent.”

The comedy honorees are Chuck Hayward for “I’m Not Your Gay Friend” and Dennis Hensley for “Misadventures in the (213).”

The drama honorees are Natalie Antoci  for “The Gables”; Bill Balas for “Affliction”; Marc Bernardin for “The Last Remaining Light”; Cynthia Greenburg for “Jamestown”; Teresa Huang for “The Chain”;         Diarra Kilpatrick for “The Dirty Dozen”;  Jack Monaco for “The Professo”; Karen Struck for “The Compound”; and Rebecca Taylor for “La Reina.”



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