The number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) characters on scripted US network television continues to decline, according to an analysis of the upcoming US television season conducted by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD).

The study shows that, despite improved quality in representation, LGBT characters will represent only 1.1% (7) of all regular series characters in the 2007-08 broadcast television schedule, down from 1.3% (9) in 2006, and 1.4% (10) in 2005.

From information provided by the five broadcast networks – ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and The CW – GLAAD examined 87 scripted comedies and dramas announced to air this upcoming season.

There are only seven regular LGBT characters on these networks and they appear on only five scripted programs: Brothers & Sisters; Desperate Housewives; Ugly Betty; The Office; and the series Cashmere Mafia. Six of these seven characters are on the ABC network, with no lead or supporting LGBT characters scheduled to appear on CBS, FOX or The CW networks.

“While we acknowledge there have been improvements made in how we are seen on the broadcast networks, most notably on ABC, our declining representation clearly indicates a failure to inclusively reflect the audience watching television,” says GLAAD President Neil G. Giuliano.

“Striving toward diversity isn’t merely the responsible road to take for broadcasters, but as many of television’s highest-rated programs demonstrate, it’s also good for business. One need only look at the growing viewership of cable networks to see how inclusive programming can attract a wider audience.”

In addition to the seven LGBT series regular characters, 13 semi-regular recurring characters are anticipated to appear during the upcoming network TV season. This increase in recurring characters from last year’s five suggests that producers and writers are showing a guarded interest in being inclusive without making the characters lead or supporting.

As has been the trend for a number of years, the real advances in LGBT representation are being made in cable channels. A total of 40 LGBT regular characters were counted across 21 scripted comedies and dramas scheduled to air on mainstream cable networks this season; 15 more than were counted last year.

“These numbers in part reflect a continued commitment to diversity effectively demonstrated by mainstream cable networks such as The N, FX, HBO, Showtime, and BBC America. Cable networks Logo and here! create additional original scripted programming for a predominantly LGBT audience,” said GLAAD.

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