×

AMC, CBS, CW Have a ‘Black Problem’ in Writers Rooms, New Report Finds

Only 35% of writers’ rooms for the 2016-2017 television season had a black writer on staff, finds a new report by Color of Change released today. And within that 35% of rooms, less than 5% of writers were black.

That means that 65% of writers’ rooms examined for the report, entitled “Race in the Writer’s Room,” featured no black writers at all, while only 17% of rooms featured two more more black writers.

“The outrageous level of exclusion in writers’ rooms has real-life consequences for black people, people of color and women,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color Of Change, in a statement.

The report was created from an examination of 234 original, scripted comedy and drama series from 18 different networks during the previous television season. AMC stands out as “the worst on overall inclusion” when considering both race and gender, according to the report, as well as CBS and the CW, which the report says have a “black problem” because they’re lacking black writers.

The report also finds that 91% of the showrunners across the 18 networks they studied were white and 80% of them were men.

Additionally, the report finds that in 17% of rooms that employ a single black writer, that writer is often excluded from influencing the creative process and passed over for advancement. Only 13.6% of shows led by white showrunners had two or more black writers in the room, but every room led by a black showrunner had multiple white writers.

Robinson acknowledged that while shows like “Queen Sugar” and “Insecure” are examples of programs that do boast diverse writers’ rooms, they are exceptions.

“Hollywood executives make decisions every day about who gets hired. Their exclusion of black showrunners and writers results in content — viewed by millions of Americans, year after year — that advances harmful stereotypes about black people and creates a more hostile world for black people in real life,” Robinson said, imploring Hollywood to “do better.”

While one of the ways networks say they are doing better is through diversity programs, “Race in the Writer’s Room” finds that these programs are also failing to increase opportunity for writers of color. Multiple writers who were interviewed for the report stated that they felt showrunners cycle through writers of color for the year that they get them through these diversity programs but then don’t end up hiring them. Instead, they often to just take on another junior writer who is free of charge to their production budget. The report states this cycle gives a “false appearance of inclusion, while actually limiting the ability of a critical mass of writers of color to build seniority over time and gain influence in the industry.”

Color of Change’s recommendations in the report include changing hiring practices by mandating genuine inclusion in outreach, application, interview and assessment processes, as well as setting public goals for inclusion in hiring and in talent cultivation, supported by real budgets and concrete shifts in practices and transparency. Color of Change also implores advocates and influencers within the industry to work together towards change.

Color of Change commissioned Darnell Hunt, Dean of Social Sciences and Professor of Sociology and African American Studies at UCLA to produce this report, which also includes a forward from Mara Brock Akil, who, along with her husband Salim Akil, runs the CW’s upcoming new superhero drama “Black Lightning.”

More TV

  • Westworld Season 3

    HBO Releases Trailer for 'Westworld' Season 3

    A month away from the third season premiere of HBO’s “Westworld,” and the premium cabler has released a new trailer. “I was born into this world, and my first memories of it are pain,” says Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores, as she enters a new realm. “For my kind, there was one place we were never [...]

  • Logan Lerman Jordan Peele Al Pacino

    Al Pacino and Carol Kane Had a ‘Dog Day Afternoon’ Reunion on the ‘Hunters’ Set

    Nearly 45 years after Al Pacino and Carol Kane appeared in Sidney Lumet’s classic film “Dog Day Afternoon,” an Amazon Prime Video series about Nazi-hunters in 1977 New York City has brought them back together. Go figure. “I’m proud to be working with him again,” Kane told Variety at the “Hunters” premiere on Wednesday night [...]

  • Danai Gurira

    Danai Gurira Inks Overall Deal With ABC Studios

    Danai Gurira has signed a two-year overall deal with ABC Studios. Under the deal, the celebrated actress and playwright will develop, write and produce projects for the studio across all platforms. She is currently serving as showrunner and executive producer on “Americanah,” a miniseries for HBO Max which she adapted from the bestselling novel by [...]

  • Reno 911

    'Reno 911!' Main Cast to Reunite for Quibi Revival

    Nobody’s goofin’ about this. The entire main cast of “Reno 911!” is now confirmed to be returning for the show’s upcoming seventh season at Quibi. It was previously announced that co-creators Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, and Keri Kenney-Silver would all be back for the show’s seventh season. They will now be joined by Niecy [...]

  • Chilean Producers

    10 Chilean Producers to Track

    Chilean producers to track, who will be forming part of the Berlinale’s 2020 Country in Focus dedicated to Chile. Five are well-known, another five on the rise : Up-and-coming María José Díaz  Dos Be Producciones An executive producer and investigative journalist for TV series and doc-features, Diaz is an executive producer at Dos Be Prods. [...]

  • Friends TV Series

    'Friends' DVD, Digital Sales Soar as It Takes a Break From Streaming

    They’re on a streaming break — but “Friends” will still be there for you. WarnerMedia’s home entertainment division is aiming to capitalize on the brief disappearance of the hit sitcom from streaming video on demand, as fans look for other ways to get their “Friends” fix. Repeats of the wildly popular laffer, which ran for [...]

  • Variety Cord Cutting Placeholder Cable

    WarnerMedia, YouTube TV Expand Distribution Deal to HBO, Cinemax, HBO Max

    TV’s streaming wars are expanding to non-traditional fronts. WarnerMedia and YouTube TV have struck a distribution deal that will expand the Google-owned video hub’s carriage rights to include HBO and Cinemax for the first time as well as a commitment that WarnerMedia’s new HBO Max streaming service will be made available on YouTube TV upon [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content