After what it calls “a landmark year of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) representation in films such as Brokeback Mountain, Capote and Transamerica”, an analysis conducted by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), a US LGBT media advocacy group, reveals that the United States broadcast television networks continue to under-represent their LGBT audience.

According to the study, the number of LGBT scripted representations on the six major broadcast networks will comprise only 1.3% of all series regular characters on the networks’ 2006-07 schedule.

“In the last year, we’ve seen a tremendous amount of visibility on the big screen, reaching a large audience anxious to see our stories,” says GLAAD President Neil G. Giuliano. “The networks, though, are not tapping into this audience and are failing to represent the reality and diversity of their viewers and the world around them.”

GLAAD analysed the 95 announced primetime comedies and dramas on the broadcast networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, The CW and MyNetworkTV. Out of a total 679 series regular lead or supporting characters, GLAAD counts only nine (9) gay or lesbian characters — 1.3% — appearing on eight different scripted network programs. There are an additional five semi-regular recurring characters announced for this year. There are currently no bisexual or transgender representations on the broadcast networks.

One year ago, at the launch of the 2005-06 season, GLAAD counted 10 series regulars (representing 1.4% of all characters) with an additional six recurring characters. While the year-to-year numbers are relatively consistent, the profile of the roles has been greatly reduced. The exit of shows like NBC’s Will & Grace, CBS’ Out of Practice and ABC’s Crumbs leaves many of the characterisations of gays and lesbians as minor or supporting players. In addition, there is a lack of diversity among this season’s characters, with seven out of nine representing gay white men.

Meanwhile, cable and unscripted programming continue to raise the bar by exploring LGBT lives and families in multi-dimensional ways. On the mainstream cable networks, GLAAD counts 25 LGBT series regular characters that will appear during the 2006-07 season, the same number as last year. Cable networks here! and Logo provide additional programming specifically for an LGBT audience.

For 11 years, GLAAD has reported on the state of LGBT characters on television. For the second year in a row, GLAAD has examined the race and gender, in addition to the sexual orientation, of all 679 series regulars scheduled to appear on the broadcast networks during the 2006-07 season, based on information the networks provided by August 18, 2006.

GLAAD’s analysis finds that male characters outweigh females 387 (57%) to 292 (43%) and that the faces on scripted network programs continue to be predominantly white at 513 (75%). African Americans make up 81 (12%) of the characterisations, down 2% from the previous season. Latina/o representation rose one percent for a total of 49 (7%). There are 18 (3%) Asian-Pacific Islander characters, 11 (2%) multi-racial characters, four (1%) of Middle Eastern origin, and three non-human characters.

“When you look at primetime’s dismal lack of LGBT characters – combined with the continuing under-representation of people of colour, gay and straight alike — it’s clear that the broadcast networks have a long way to go before they accurately reflect the diversity of their audience and our society,” Giuliano says.

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