DGA Diversity Report Blasts Nets, Producers

Jul 7, 2003  •  Post A Comment

The Directors Guild of America continues to provide hard numbers that underscore something everyone in the television business already knows but many are unwilling to admit: The networks have a dismal track record on diversity. In a report issued last month, the DGA tracked the hiring of directors for the Big 4 networks’ 40 top drama and comedy series. It found that more than 80 percent of last season’s episodes were directed by male Caucasians.
This is the third year the guild has tracked minority hiring, and during those three years the figures have barely changed. Meanwhile, networks and producers have continued to promise to do a better job.
The guild is getting frustrated. “The DGA finds the lack of effort by producers and networks in women and minority hiring to be deplorable,” said Directors Guild President Martha Coolidge.
We agree. And it’s not just the hiring of directors that has failed to keep pace with the changing face of American society. The television industry has been talking a good game in recent years, but its minority hiring effort is sadly lacking, as evidenced by the puny numbers of minorities in acting roles and other positions.
hardly a secret
The absence of diversity may have been television’s dirty little secret, but thanks to the efforts of the DGA and others, it’s hardly a secret anymore. What’s truly baffling about the industry’s persistent sandbagging on diversity is that besides being more than a little offensive to minorities, it is just not good business. Network television has long been criticized for being too bland and homogenous. The more it concerns itself with appealing to the lowest common denominator, the less it reflects reality. As it continues to orient its programming toward the white middle class, it continues to see its viewership erode while more diverse cable programming gains ground.
Network TV needs a reality check. It needs to take a hard, critical look at itself and admit that it looks unlike the society to which it is trying to appeal. The latest DGA report is as good a starting point as any.
Programmers and producers would do well to embrace the efforts of the DGA and other groups working to bring diversity to network TV and to take concrete steps toward hiring women and minorities. The DGA made clear in its report that it is prepared to put pressure on producers and networks. But that threat is minor compared with the greater business costs of refusing to keep up with the times.
TV has been in denial about diversity. It’s high time for the industry to wake up and take positive action to reverse that trend.