Headlines Extra -- Media & Society

Gary Handman (ghandman@library.berkeley.edu)
Tue, 28 Sep 1999 08:34:36 -0700 (PDT)

>X-Sender: rachel@local.benton.org
>X-Mailer: QUALCOMM Windows Eudora Pro Version
>Approved-By: Rachel Anderson <rachel@BENTON.ORG>
>Date: Thu, 23 Sep 1999 15:42:06 -0400
>Reply-To: lists@BENTON.ORG
>Sender: The Benton Communications Policy Mailing List
>From: Rachel Anderson <rachel@BENTON.ORG>
>Subject: Headlines Extra -- Media & Society 9/23/99
>Headlines Extra is a free online news service provided by the Benton
>Foundation (www.benton.org/cpphome.html). Much like our daily,
>Communications-related Headlines, Headlines Extra is intended to keep
>you up-to-date on important industry developments, policy issues, and
>other pertinent communications-related news events. This service is
>available online at (www.benton.org/News/Extra).
> Why Are So Few Blacks Starring On TV? (Jet)
> Fading Away? Hispanics Demand to See Their Faces on More
>Network Shows (Fresno Bee)
> Study Shows Newsrooms Remain White, Male (CRForum)
> NAACP Blasts TV Networks' Fall Seasons Whitewash (NAACP)
> Latino Coalition Launches National Network 'Brownout' (Politico)
> Pale By Comparison (ChiTrib)
> Race: Through An Accurate Prism (L.A.)
> Is TV's Racism Black And White Or Just Green? (Plain Dealer)
> Diverse Is Better, Screen Actors Guild Ads Tell the Networks (WP)
> Criticism of All-White Shows Spurs Television to Add Minority
>Roles (NYT)
>Although for years executives from NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX have expressed
>the desire to have programming better mirror the racial makeup of the U.S.,
>of the 26 new prime-time programs to debut this fall on the four major
>broadcast networks, only one (CBS' "City of Angels") features a black in a
>leading role. Observers say that because of cable, the Internet and the
>presence of the UPN and WB networks, the four majors have turned to spending
>their resources on gaining young, White viewers. The Census Bureau shows
>that Whites are still account for approximately 70% of the American
>population between the ages of 18 and 54 -- the demographic advertisers
>most. Broadcasters are trying to hold onto White viewers because, allegedly,
>that is where advertisers will get the biggest bang for their bucks.
>Research shows that even though blacks make up 12% of the population, they
>make up 40% of television viewers. The Center for Media and Public Affairs
>points out that blacks represented only 10% of all characters on sitcoms and
>dramas on the four major networks last season, down from 17% in the 1992-93
>season. The New York Times reported that since blacks watch more television
>than other groups, advertisers won't pay networks as much for that audience
>because they are easier to reach. There's a great disparity between what
>Blacks and Whites are watching on TV: "The Steve Harvey Show" is the
>top-rated show among Blacks, but ranks 127th with White viewers. Viewers are
>encouraged to let the networks know about their outrage when quality
>programs like "Frank's Place," 413 Hope Street" and "Under One Roof" are
>[SOURCE: Jet, August 9, 1999 (pg. 55)]
>After the NAACP pointed out the lack of African-American actors on
>television, a Hispanic coalition consisting of La Raza, the National
>Hispanic Media Coalition and the National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts
>has expressed its own demand for more Hispanic characters on TV. National
>Council of La Raza President Raul Yzaguirre pointed out at the Latino Media
>Summit held in late July that one of every 10 faces in the U.S. is
>Hispanic, but
>only one out of 100 faces on television is Hispanic. At that same summit,
>Hispanic leaders agreed to develop a year-long national strategy to combat
>the virtual absence of Hispanic images on television. [see story below]
>Hispanic actors -- Cheech Marin, Jimmy Smits, Hector Elizondo, Edward James
>Olmos, Benjamin Bratt -- have played major roles on television, but the
>percentage of Hispanic actors doesn't accurately reflect the makeup of the
>melting pot of America. Cheech Marin, the star of Nash Bridges said, "Two,
>three seasons ago I was standing on the stage of the Alma Awards, when I was
>the master of ceremonies, and I looked out in the audience. There was
>Benjamin Bratt, Hector Elizondo, Jimmy Smits, myself -- all these guys stars
>of hour shows," Marin says. "More importantly, playing the guys who put the
>bad guys in jail, not the bad guys."
>Scott Sassa, NBC West Coast president, said, "I don't think I'm capable of
>telling you how Latinos feel about how they're portrayed or what they see on
>television. But I can tell you how I feel about seeing Asian-Americans
>portrayed on television. Growing up, seeing David Carradine as a Chinese guy
>(on "Kung Fu") ticks you off," Sassa said. He wants to see more characters
>who are role models rather than loading up the background players to reach a
>[SOURCE: The Fresno Bee, August 29 (H1), AUTHOR: Rick Bentley]
>On July 8, in conjunction with UNITY 99, a conference of minority
>journalists was held in Seattle Washington, the Radio-Television News
>Directors Association (RTNDA) released the results of a study it
>commissioned on employment diversity in radio and television news. The
>"Women and Minorities Survey"conducted at Ball State University showed that
>although progress is being made in certain areas, the people who write,
>produce and report the nations' news are still predominately white and
>male. According to the survey, minorities account for about 19% of
>television newsroom staff and only 11% of staff in radio newsrooms. The
>study also reported that the overall percentage was down slightly from last
>year, although it was noted that minorities are gaining some ground in
>penetrating the upper management tiers. For instance, in 1996 only 10% of
>assistant news directors were minorities, whereas this year that number has
>risen to 18%. The percentage of executive producers has also climbed to 16%
>from 7% three years ago and percent of minority assignment editors rose
>from 14% to 22%.
>[SOURCE: The Forum Connection (Civil Rights Forum) July 15, Author: Jessica
>Kweisi Mfume, President & CEO of the National Association for the
>Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) blasted the four major networks (ABC,
>CBS, NBC, and Fox) for their lack of diversity in the new fall season prime
>time line-up. He said, "When the television-viewing public sits down to
>watch the new prime time shows scheduled for this fall's line-up, they will
>see a virtual whitewash in programming. This whitewash exists because none
>of the 26 new shows slated for the fall season have a minority in a leading
>or starring role. The NAACP Television & Film Diversity Initiative will
>launch an aggressive, comprehensive and sustained campaign directed out of a
>NAACP Hollywood Bureau slated to open in October. The
>Bureau will serve as a watchdog to report on and monitor diversity
>throughout the television and film industry. The campaign may include
>litigation and civil action.
> From September 12th to the 25th, a coalition of ten Hispanic organizations
>has urged the nation's 31 million Latinos to boycott ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC
>to protest the "continued invisibility of Latin actors on TV." "We're saying
>enough is enough.There's been a historic invisibility of Latinos," said Lisa
>Navarrete, the deputy vice president for the National Council of La Raza.
>Navarrete said there is only one Latino person, Martin Sheen, in a leading
>role in the 26 network shows premiering this fall. Latinos are 11 percent
>of the population, but only 2 percent of all network TV characters. The
>"National Brownout" was launched during the National Council of La Raza's
>annual convention in late July. Representatives of the sponsoring
>organizations say they are angry that few Latinos are on the fall lineup of
>new shows-even though Hispanics watch more television on average than the
>general public. According to the "Engaging Television in English y en
>Espa-ol" study conducted by the Tomas Rivera Policy Institute, a think tank
>headquartered in Southern California., U.S. Latinos watch about four hours
>of TV a day, 45 minutes more than non-Latinos.
>Navarrete said leaders of black, Asian American and Latino groups met in New
>York last Friday to discuss ways they could collectively pressure the
>networks to include more minorities in its programs.
>[SOURCE: Politico, August 2, AUTHOR: Julie Amparano]
>[Commentary]A long look at the demographics of the fall TV line-up from the
>Tribune's TV critic. Steve Johnson points out the difference between local
>newscasts -- which always seem to be delivered by a multiracial mix of men
>and women -- and prime time entertainment which is filled by predominately
>white actors and actresses. If the broadcast networks are narrowcasting,
>they seem to be
>targeting just the majority white audience -- if we are to accept that
>people tend to watch programs that feature their own race. The NAACP and a
>coalition of Latino organizations started protesting the "whitewashing" of
>prime time TV this summer. Of the nearly three dozen new series starting
>this fall on the six broadcast networks, only six have minorities in leading
>roles. Yvette Lee Bowser, an established TV writer, said, "There's a very
>unfortunate reality that we have to deal with this particular season...But
>it existed last year, too, and the year before....And I think that
>people...are considering the kind of impact, the social impact, that
>homogenized television will have on our culture." Johnson asked; Why does
>it take the NAACP and media critics to awaken a TV network to something so
>obvious as the fact that television, as a primary social force, will come
>under scrutiny with regards to hot-button issues such as race? TV has
>"increasingly become only white," said UPN President Dean Valentine, and is
>"becoming increasingly divorced from the American way of life." Valentine
>said he's "always felt that it was good business and it was responsible
>business for us to try, over time, to reflect the way the country
>looked...There's a huge African-American middle class....We're one big
>country and I think it's a silly and shortsighted business decision to
>alienate an entire segment of the population." [There's more -- a lot more
>-- at the URL below.]
>[SOURCE: Chicago Tribune (Sec 5, p.1), AUTHOR: Steve Johnson]
>[Op-Ed]Adonis Hoffman says it is time for Hollywood to change. Of 1,000 top
>executives in the television industry -- including writers, directors,
>producers and agents -- only a handful are black. White males exert most of
>the control over a $20+ billion industry that influences the culture,
>commerce and values of virtually every nation in the world. When Hollywood
>projects an image, it becomes global reality. Television and movies possess
>the inherent power to define what the world sees and how it should feel
>about it.
>The absence of minorities from Hollywood's executive suites means they are
>powerless to control their own global reality. When the NAACP chided
>Hollywood for not featuring minority actors in leading television roles, it
>was only half right. The more accurate measurement, perhaps, would be the
>level of control black executives have over film and television budgets.
>Hoffman believes that opening up network and studio boardrooms to
>qualified minorities would have an astounding effect both within and beyond
>the broadcast industry. With the power to define their characters, black
>writers and producers would be liberated to present a richer pastiche of the
>African American experience to the global audience. No longer would black
>images be filtered through the lens of formulaic stereotypes that so often
>result in one-dimensional characters -- usually criminal or comedic. The
>presence of minority executives in decision-making positions at networks and
>studios also means that ancillary economic benefits and revenue in the
>industry could begin to find their way to minority communities. Minority
>agents, attorneys, accountants, advertising executives, insurers, caterers
>contractors would be poised to receive a reasonable share of commerce from
>the networks simply because a minority executive was conscious of their
>[SOURCE: Los Angeles Times, August 8 (M1), AUTHOR: Adonis Hoffman (Director
>of the Corporate Policy Institute)]
>The total prime-time network television audience is 84.4% white, 11.8% black
>and 3.8% other, according to the A.C. Nielsen rating service. Those numbers
>offer a powerful temptation for advertisers to ignore minority audiences.
>Follow the money, network executives say, and it will lead you back to the
>advertisers who pay the bills. "Even though we don't have conclusive
>evidence, there is a lot of qualitative evidence showing a certain amount of
>pervasive racism on the parts of advertisers and advertising agencies," said
>Kofi Ofori, research director for the Civil Rights Forum, a Washington-based
>UPN, the smallest network, has the largest percentage of black viewers,
>32% of its total audience, according to Nielsen. The WB is at 27%, Fox 13%,
>CBS 12%, ABC 11% and NBC 8%. "Black shows" also have very little crossover
>appeal to the much larger white audience. As a result, reaching minority
>groups through prime-time network advertising is becoming increasingly
>inefficient, ad agencies say. Last year, only six of the 20 most-popular
>shows among black viewers -- "E.R.," "Monday Night Football," "60 Minutes,"
>"Touched by an Angel," "NYPD Blue" and "CBS Sunday Movie" - ranked among
>the 20 most popular programs with white audiences, according to Nielsen.
>One TV producer suggests that the ultimate solution may be bringing in more
>minorities in roles *behind* the camera -- particularly as writers,
>directors and producers. Steven Bochco, a prominent TV producer, says,
>"From a network point of view, I don't think racism is an issue. I think
>economics is an issue. When things that you try don't succeed, there's a
>reluctance to try them again. When they do succeed, you try them over and
>Some media critics contend that even advertisers are beginning to see
>added value in supporting into diverse shows. Ratings -- sheer numbers of
>viewers -- might not be everything, after all. "Advertisers are very [angry]
>about what network television is doing in the way of delivering their
>consumers. They are simply not doing the job," said Ken Smikle, president of
>Target Market News, a Chicago-based research firm that monitors black
>marketing and the media. "Advertisers are looking more and more to tap into
>ethnic markets of all kinds, and network television is going in the exact
>opposite direction. That's why the ratings game continues to be a zero-sum
>game for them: They keep charging more for less."
>[SOURCE: The Plain Dealer, August 15 (1A), AUTHOR: Mark Dawidziak &
>Tom Feran]
>The Screen Actors Guild President Richard Masur said SAG wants to
>"challenge" the myth that there aren't enough qualified performers among
>groups that are underrepresented on television. In Los Angeles SAG launched
>an advertising campaign that it says is designed to convince entertainment
>industry executives that diverse casting is the right thing to do and makes
>good business sense. The first ad appeared in the Hollywood Reporter, which
>is targeted to entertainment executives. "You have a demand. We have a
>supply," the ad read. "We also hope to convince industry insiders that
>diversity can improve their bottom line," said Masur.
>[SOURCE: Washington Post, August 12 (C07), AUTHOR: Lisa de Moraes]
>With the new television season starting, network executives and producers
>are responding in alarm to the strong criticisms from black and Latino
>groups about the absence of nonwhites in most of the network series. Kweisi
>Mfume, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
>People, and his organization bought 100 shares in each of the companies that
>own these networks "so we can go to board meetings and raise the kind of
>hell and the issues that we think are necessary," he said. "We're
>certainly glad that some of the networks have seen fit to add minorities to
>their programs," said John C. White, the NAACP.'s director of
>communications. "But we still think it's even more important that
>minorities are hired in decision-making positions -- and when we say
>minorities we're not just talking African-Americans. We think there's an
>insufficient number of Latinos, Asian-Americans and Native Americans on
>television." The evidence is clear that the protests over the new all-white
>shows have stung executives and producers, resulting in a rush to add
>minority roles."There were hardly any African-American roles in the pilot
>season and the shows that got picked up," said Karen Goldberg, a talent
>agent at the Don Buchwald agency. "Now, suddenly, they're definitely adding
>characters." Marcia Shulman, senior vice president for talent and casting at
>20th Century Fox Television, which produces 22 shows, flew to New York last
>week to interview actors "of every ethnicity" for next year. Not only is
>this studio and others adding minority characters and quickly shifting plot
>lines, but networks are also looking ahead to next year, partly to avoid the
>problems of this year. As to the current last-minute spate of hiring of
>minority members, Steven Bochco said he disagreed with anyone who called
>the step cynical. "It doesn't matter to me if you hire as an afterthought,"
>he said.
>"It doesn't matter if you hire me for the wrong reasons. At least you've
>done it."
>[SOURCE: New York Times, September 20 (A1), AUTHOR: Bernard Weinraub]
>(c)Benton Foundation, 1999. Redistribution of this email publication -- both
>internally and externally -- is encouraged if it includes this message. This
>service is available online at (www.benton.org/News/Extra).
>To subscribe to the Benton Communications-Related Headlines,
>send email to: listserv@cdinet.com
>In the body of the message, type only:
>subscribe benton-compolicy YourFirstName YourLastName
>To unsubscribe, send email to:
>In the body of the message, type only:
>signoff benton-compolicy
>If you have any problems with the service, please direct them to
Gary Handman
Media Resources Center
Moffitt Library
UC Berkeley 94720-6000

"Everything wants to become television" (James Ulmer -- Teletheory)