The ACLU is calling on legislators in New York to pass a bill that would make the state the first to grant financial incentives to TV shows that hire women and minority writers and directors. The bill would amend the state’s existing $420 million annual tax incentives program to allocate $5 million toward those salaries.
“Discrimination in the television industry is a serious civil rights problem that affects us all,” said Melissa Goodman, director of the LGBTQ, Gender and Reproductive Justice Project at the ACLU SoCal. “Excluding the voices of women and people of color from one of our most powerful cultural products reinforces stereotypes and bias people experience in their everyday lives. It’s clear that the industry needs the incentives called for in this bill, along with external pressure from civil rights enforcement agencies, to finally fix this long-running, entrenched problem.”
Goodman and the local ACLU have been leading the charge to get the U.S. Civil Rights Commission to investigate the underemployment of women film and TV directors.
“Whatever the outcome of the federal investigation, the entertainment industry should act now to promote equal opportunity behind the camera,” said Lenora Lapidus, Director of the ACLU Women’s Rights Project. “The film production tax credit already has brought millions of dollars to the state and put countless creative New Yorkers to work. This bill holds tremendous promise for incentivizing the industry to hire even more of them – and to do so in a way that assures all of our stories make it on-screen.”
A recent DGA study found that in the 2014-2015 network season and the 2014 cable season, white men directed 69% of the episodes while men of color directed only 15%, and that white women directed only 13% and women of color directed just 3%. A recent WGA study found that women make up just 30% of television writers, while only 13% are people of color.
“New York is an entertainment capital and a progressive leader,” said Bernadette Brown, deputy legislative director for the New York Civil Liberties Union. “By creating incentives for equity and inclusion in television, the state has a powerful opportunity to promote greater awareness of how we perceive race and gender, and how we act on those perceptions — how a police officer views a black man; how a teacher treats a Latino child; what a young girl believes she can accomplish when she grows up.”