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Latinx community remains underrepresented in television, UCLA report finds

Although minority representation in the television industry is improving, the Latinx community is still severely underrepresented, according to a new diversity report. The study, which was published by UCLA on Tuesday, looked at 461 scripted cable, broadcast and digital television shows from 2019 and 2020.

“Despite the promising trends in on-screen diversity recorded in this report, much work remains to be done in solving Hollywood’s diversity problem,” the study said. “Even as people of color collectively make progress in front of the camera, specific racial/ethnic groups such as Latinx, Asian, and Native persons continue to be severely underrepresented among television leads and among other top roles.”

“And though the trends generally point in the right direction for people of color among television’s writers, directors, and show creators, people of color have considerable ground to cover before they reach proportionate representation among the talent who shape the stories that air and stream on the small screen.”

The report, which historically tracks television statistics and trends by season, found that even though the Hispanic and Latinx community make up almost 18.5% of America’s population, Latinx actors made up only 5.5% of total digital roles, 5.7% of cable roles and 6.3% of broadcast roles from 2019 to 2020.

The margin grew even smaller when researchers considered lead roles — Latinx and Hispanic actors starred in 4.7% of digital scripted shows, 3.9% of cable scripted shows and 7.1% of broadcast scripted shows. 

The study found that in the past six years there has been a “steady increase in overall cast diversity across all three platform types.” But these increases are largely for Black or multiracial roles, with Latinx roles remaining “underrepresented,” according to researchers. 

Meanwhile, audiences responded better to broadcast shows with more diverse casts and crew, UCLA data found. All audiences gave cable shows with casts “that were at least 41 percent minority” the highest ratings, according to the report, and Black and Latinx households gave the highest ratings to shows where at least 41% of the credited writers were people of color. 

Shows with diverse cast members also received the most attention on social media, the report said. Broadcast shows with 31-40% of its cast members identifying as people of color saw the most audience interaction on Instagram and Facebook, while on Twitter, shows with 41-50% minority cast members received the most attention.

Social media engagement was also high for cable shows with majority-minority casts. However, audience interaction with digital scripted shows was more mixed — on Instagram, audience interaction peaked for shows with less than 11% minority casts, the report found.

“We have seen this appetite for diverse content repeated over the history of our analyses,” Darnell Hunt, co-author of the report and UCLA’s dean of social sciences, said in a release Tuesday. “The fact that shows with diverse writers rooms did well last year also illustrates that audiences are looking for authentic portrayals.”

The report highlights that studio and network executive suites remain primarily White. As these roles are integral to green-lighting and funding projects that will end up on tv screens, researchers maintain that television’s growth will continue slowly until these roles are diversified. 

“Only when women and people of color are integrated into these defining spaces — and in meaningful proportions — will Hollywood truly solve its diversity problem,” the study said. 

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