An annual report has found that the number of regular LGBT characters on American television networks has risen to the highest ever recorded.
This was revealed on Friday when GLAAD, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) media advocacy and anti-defamation organisation, released its annual Where We Are on TV report.
According to GLAAD, the increase in LGBT characters on broadcast television comes after a decrease last year. It noted that there has also been a rise in LGBT characters on pay television networks.
“This year’s increase of LGBT characters on television reflects a cultural change in the way gay and lesbian people are seen in our society,” said GLAAD President Herndon Graddick.
“More and more Americans have come to accept their LGBT family members, friends, co-workers, and peers, and as audiences tune into their favourite programs, they expect to see the same diversity of people they encounter in their daily lives.”
The report shows that LGBT characters account for 4.4% of scripted series regular characters in the 2012-2013 broadcast television schedule. This is up from 2.9% in 2011, 3.9% in 2010, 3% in 2009, 2.6% in 2008 and 1.1% in 2007. Regular LGBT characters on scripted cable television also rose this year to 35 (up from 29) for the 2012-2013 season.
From research and information provided by the five broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and The CW — the study reviewed 97 scripted television programs scheduled to air this upcoming season on the broadcasts networks, and counted a total of 701 series regular characters. Thirty-one of those are LGBT, as are an additional 19 recurring characters.
The popular musical youth show Glee was found to be the most LGBT inclusive program on broadcast television.
On mainstream pay TV networks, the number of announced LGBT series regular characters has also increased to 35, and will also feature 26 recurring characters for a total of 61 LGBT characters.
Once again, this year, the HBO vampire drama series True Blood is the most inclusive show on cable television, with six gay, lesbian or bisexual characters.
“It is vital for networks to weave complex and diverse storylines of LGBT people in the different programs they air,” Graddick continued. “When young LGBT people see loving couples like Callie and Arizona on Grey’s Anatomy or Degrassi‘s confident transgender high school student Adam Torres, they find characters they can look up to and slowly start building the courage to live authentically.”
Of the 31 announced LGBT regular characters in the 2012-2013 primetime broadcast season, 11 are people of colour (35.5%), and one will be a person with a disability. In one area that has seen great improvement, GLAAD counted seven regular or recurring black LGBT characters on broadcast television, while last year it counted none at all.