Media Study Finds Hollywood Excludes Minorities, Women, LGBT People

Report issues "inclusivity index" of 10 "whitewashed" leading media companies

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Hollywood; Whitewashed; Study; Netflix; Studios
A comprehensive new study analyzing 10 leading media companies discovers an "epidemic of invisibility" for minorities, women and LGBT people Al Seib/Getty

The #OscarsSoWhite backlash may have only scratched the surface of a deeper problem. A comprehensive new study on film and television diversity claims that a "whitewashed" Hollywood has created an "epidemic of invisibility" for women, minorities and LGBT people, The Associated Press reports. 

The analysis – from the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism – issued an "inclusivity index" of 10 leading media companies (including Disney, Amazon and Netflix) and served a failing grade to most.

"The prequel to OscarsSoWhite is HollywoodSoWhite," USC professor Stacy L. Smith, one of the report's authors, told the AP. "We don't have a diversity problem. We have an inclusion crisis."

"The Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity" analyzed 109 major studio films from 2014 and 305 "scripted, first-run TV and digital series" spanning 31 networks and streaming services from September 2014 to August 2015, according to AP. The study considered over 11,000 speaking characters for gender, race, ethnicity and LGBT status; around 10,000 directors, writers and series creators, along with over 1,500 executives, were also examined. Ultimately, the report determined that "the landscape of media content is still largely whitewashed."

Studying 414 films and shows, the study found that only one-third of speaking characters were female, with only 28.3 percent from minority groups and a mere 2 percent as LGBT-identified. Only seven of the overall 11,306 speaking characters were transgendered – and four of those came from the same series. 

But the numbers are more troubling for off-screen talent: 87 percent of directors were white, and broadcast TV directors comprised the least diverse group at 90.4 percent white. Only 15.2 percent of directors were female, and only 3.4 percent of considered films were directed by women. Out of 109 total directors, only two – Ava DuVernay and Amma Asante – were black women.

The "inclusivity index" gauged 10 companies – Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Walt Disney Co., 21st Century Fox, Sony, NBC Universal, CBS, Time Warner and Viacom – and found all of the six major studios falling below a 20 percent overall grade. Time Warner earned a depressing 0 percent. Overall, the report dubbed the film industry a "straight, white, boys' club."

However, promising signs of diversity emerged when considering companies' TV and digital platforms, with Disney, Amazon, Hulu and the CW all reaching 65 percent or more.

"When we turn to see where the problem is better or worse, the apex to this whole endeavor is: Everyone in film is failing; all of the companies investigated," Smith told AP. "They're impervious to change. But there are pockets of promise in television. There is a focus that change is possible. The very companies that are inclusive — Disney, CW, Hulu, Amazon to some degree — those companies, if they're producing and distributing motion pictures, can do this. We now have evidence that they can, and they can thrive."

Meanwhile, the 2016 Oscars will air Sunday, February 28th, and host Chris Rock plans to address the #SoWhite controversy during his monologue. "You should expect [#OscarsSoWhite jokes]," Oscars producer Reginald Hudlin told Entertainment Tonight. "And, yes, the Academy is ready for him to do that. They're excited about him doing that. They know that's what we need. They know that's what the public wants, and we deliver what the people want."

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