ABC Leads Big Four Networks in Asian American Representation, Says APAMC

Randall Park, Constance Wu, Hudson Yang,
Frank Micelotta/Twentieth Century Fox Television/PictureGroup/REX/Shutterstock

The Asian Pacific American Media Coalition issued its annual report card for the 2018-2019 television season, examining ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox’s on-screen and off-screen representation of Asian Americans.

ABC once again scored highest among the four major broadcast networks, though the media-watch organization noted that “the biggest gains for APAs now seem to be happening in non-network media” such as Netflix’s “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before,” “Always Be My Maybe,” and “The Half of It,” Amazon Studios’ “Man in the High Castle,” Hulu’s “Pen15,” and Comedy Central’s “Awkwafina Is Nora From Queens.”

The report takes into account not just actors in scripted series, but metrics such as: hosts and contestants on unscripted shows, writers, producers, directors, development, commitment to diversity, and the group’s relationship with each network’s diversity department.

ABC, which scored a B overall, featured 23 Asian American regulars in the casts of its series during the 2018-2019 season, a decrease from 24 the previous season but an increase in ratio to the network’s total number of regulars. Six of those regulars alone are on “Fresh Off the Boat,” and two are on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” both of which have ended or are ending in 2020.

CBS, which received a B-, featured 20 Asian American series regulars and 23 writers and producers. The network “really shined” in the unscripted category, given the talent and judges on “World’s Best.”

NBC, like ABC and CBS, received the same grade as the previous season. The organization graded it a C, and noted the casting of Indian American actor Sarayu Blue as the star of series “I Feel Bad.”

Meanwhile, Fox’s grade jumped from an F to a C- from the previous season. The network featured four Asian American series regulars, and zero regular voiceover actors on its animated series.

The APAMC first started meeting with the major broadcast networks in 1999, and APAMC chair Daniel Mayeda noted that in the acting, writing/producing, directing and unscripted categories, there has “generally” been an improvement. But that trajectory has plateaued, according to the organization, which highlighted the D+ grade in the acting category given to Fox, its lowest in 18 years.

“While we continue to advocate for the networks to feature more APAs in leading roles, the Coalition applauds the increased inclusion of APAs in other venues,” Mayeda said. “We recognize that many of these programs and films would not have been possible without the training and opportunities created by the networks’ diversity efforts. But the networks themselves need to redouble their efforts to avoid slipping behind their streaming and cable counterparts in representing APAs.”

The group expressed concern that the box office success of “Crazy Rich Asians” in 2018 did not necessarily translate to representation in the TV landscape. APAMC is also concerned about the spike in anti-Asian sentiment amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

“Given the backlash many Asian Americans have faced because of COVID-19, we urge the networks to also produce news stories on this rising concern as well as the remarkable contributions our communities have made to this country,” said Rita Pin Ahrens, the executive director of OCA—Asian Pacific American Advocates, an APAMC member organization.