GLAAD has released its “Where We Are On TV” report for the 2016-2017 season and the news is mixed.
The study found the highest percentage of LGBTQ series regulars ever on broadcast scripted primetime programming. Of the 895 series-regular characters expected to appear on broadcast scripted primetime programming in the coming year, 43 (4.8%) were identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and queer. There were an additional 28 recurring LGBTQ characters. ABC posts the highest percentage of LGBTQ regular characters of all five broadcast networks with 7.3%
But the news is not as good for the broadcast networks’ treatment of queer females, saying the nets failed them “this year as character after character was killed.” The report went on to say that “this continues a decades-long trend of killing LGBTQ characters – often solely to further a straight, cisgender character’s plotline – which sends a dangerous message to audiences.”
The number of LGBTQ regular characters on scripted cable programs rose, with 92 this year from 84 the previous year. Recurring characters, however, decreased from 58 to 50. This brings the overall count to 142 regular and recurring LGBTQ characters expected, equal to the previous year’s total.
Lesbian representation dropped dramatically on broadcast television, down 16 percentage points to 17% of all LGBTQ characters, according to the report. Lesbian representation is also down on cable, to 20%, from 22% reported last year.
Black characters accounted for 20% of all broadcast series regulars, and characters with disabilities for 1.7% — both also all-time highs. Across broadcast, cable and streaming, the number of transgender series regulars more than doubled from seven last season to 16 this season.
Cable and streaming platforms need to include more racially diverse LGBTQ characters, the study found, with a majority of LGBTQ regular and recurring characters on each platform (72% and 71%, respectively) counted as white. Overall racial diversity is up again with 36% (325) of 895 series regular characters on broadcast counted as people of color, a three-point increase from last year’s report.
Women represent 44% of series regulars on broadcast TV, although the country’s population is 51% female. The largest discrepancy occurs among characters of color, where only 38% are female.
“While it is heartening to see progress being made in LGBTQ representation on television, it’s important to remember that numbers are only part of the story, and we must continue the push for more diverse and intricate portrayals of the LGBTQ community,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, GLAAD president and CEO. “GLAAD will continue to work with Hollywood to tell nuanced LGBTQ stories that accelerate acceptance – and hold the networks, streaming services, and content creators accountable for the images and storylines they present.”
“The Where We Are on TV” report‘s forecasts for the 2016-2017 TV season are based on scripted series which air or are expected to air in primetime between June 1, 2016-May 31, 2017.