GLAAD Announces There Are Less LGBT Storylines On TV This Year

By Jessica Rawden 2013-10-11 13:42:32 discussion comments
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Today, GLAAD released a couple of its annual reports measuring different TV networks for feature a variety of LGBT characters and stories. The seventh annual Network Responsibility Index and the 18th annual Where We Are on TV report both measure diversity on television, and while some networks have been described as “good” and others have totally missed the mark as far as LGBT characters are concerned, no network was graded by GLAAD as being “excellent.”

This year, GLAAD believes there needs to be more LGBT storytelling on TV. Despite the lack of excellence in diverse storytelling, the GLAAD reports do indicate that some network and cable stations are doing a “good” job of telling diverse stories. These networks include ABC, ABC Family, The CW, FOX, MTV, NBC, and Showtime. The next tier down earned a rating of “adequate,” including CBS, FX, HBO, TLC, TNT, USA. In the lonely failing category is the History Channel and TBS. I don’t know what TBS’ story is, but let’s take a look at the History Channel for a minute.

It’s a little confusing to me how GLAAD chooses which cable networks to study and which to ignore. The methodology stated at the beginning of the report says the researchers use a combo of network recognition and Nielsen Reports to choose which cable stations to study, but that doesn’t really explain why HBO and Showtime were looked at but Starz was ignored, why History was looked at but Bravo, OWN, AMC, A&E, Discovery, Lifetime and more were ignored. As fond as I am of diversity on television, some networks cater to a much more specific audience than others, and History pretty much caters to the 40+ straight white dude demographic. With the exception of younger-skewing programs like Vikings and a few History Specials, it looks like the History Channel will always be destined to fail this test, and cutting back on reruns of Pawn Stars to fit LGBT criteria would probably just mean that network would lose money. Likewise, if Bravo was included on this list, it’s far more likely that network would receive excellent marks. I’m not saying that GLAAD is intentionally skewing results, I’m just saying that selective monitering is probably not the best way to accomplish a widescale study like this one. If you are going to cut off somewhere, you need to be more explicit about why.

Today’s lists are a far from perfect presentation, but they do present some telling facts. Compared to last year’s numbers, LGBT representation on television has dropped from last year’s record high of 4.4% to a paltry 3.3%, although the report notes that programs like ABC Family’s The Fosters, which follows both an interracial and lesbian couple raising a family, have helped to raise the profile of LGBT characters on TV. On cable, ABC Family was the most inclusive network, with 50% of its programming including an “LGBT impression or storyline.” On network TV, Fox was the highest rated network, with 42% of its programming featuring an LGBT impression or storyline.

In the coming year, HBO might manage to move up in the rankings quite a bit. The subscription cable network already has shows with positive LGBT portrayals, including True Blood and Girls, and right now the network is putting together a slate of new programming featuring diverse characters. This includes Ryan Murphy’s Open, a Lorimer-based project, and the TV movie The Normal Heart.
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