It’s that time of year again when GLAAD releases its annual Network Responsibility Index (its ninth) looking at how television is doing representing the LGBT community. The report looks at original primetime programming on the five broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, CBS, CW, FOX) and 10 cable networks (HBO, MTV, Showtime, ABC Family, TLC, History, A&E, TNT, USA and FX) from June 1, 2014 to May 31, 2015.
One network, FOX, received an Excellent rating, making it the first broadcast network to achieve such a rating. ABC Family also received Excellent for the third year in a row. Other grades are Good, Adequate and Failing.
“The ninth edition of the NRI marks the first time in the report’s history that a major broadcast network – FOX – received an ‘Excellent’ as a grade,” said GLAAD CEO & President Sarah Kate Ellis. “This milestone highlights real change across the media landscape – especially considering that the network received a ‘Failing’ grade in the NRI’s first two editions.”
GLAAD also announced that this will be the final edition of the NRI, and the group will instead focus on LGBT images on TV through its annual Where We Are On TV Report. "GLAAD's Network Responsibility Index has helped reshape the television landscape, inspiring LGBT characters and story lines that move acceptance forward," continued Ellis. "As representations of LGBT people in the media continue to rise in number, pushing television networks to make those representations more diverse is more crucial than ever. This requires a different set of tools than the NRI provides, and as such GLAAD will shift focus to its annual TV diversity and transgender reports."
Some important findings in this year's NRI include FOX being the network with the highest percentage of LGBT-inclusive original programming hours (45.4%), which is also the highest percentage on a broadcast network since the NRI began. The network was also second in terms of being the most racially diverse with the CW being in first place. The CW also had the highest percentage of LGBT impressions, though many of those were deemed in the report as 'minor,' not 'major.' Also, in terms of the five broadcast networks compared with last year's findings, CW and FOX rose while NBC, ABC and CBS fell.
In fact, the report states, “As has often been the case, CBS came in last among the broadcast networks in LGBT-inclusive hours (27%) which is a slight decrease from last year (28%). Like in past years, the majority of its LGBT-inclusive hours (53%) came from unscripted or reality programming like ‘The Amazing Race’ and ‘Big Brother.'”
In terms of cable, with series like “The Fosters” and “Pretty Little Liars,” ABC Family ranked first with 74% (last year’s number was 42%), while the History Channel, though airing approximately 362.5 hours of original programming, did not feature a single LGBT impression.
Finally, the report also offers suggestions for how the networks can improve their LGBT impressions. For example, the report cites the dramas of Shonda Rhimes (“How To Get Away with Murder,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Scandal“) as good examples of racially diverse programming. However, 83% of ABC’s LGBT characters this year were white. Also, at FOX, no surprise that “Empire” helped them nab their Excellent rating. According to the report: “Among the show’s most popular characters is young gay musician Jamal (Jussie Smollett), whose tempestuous relationship with his homophobic music producer father (Terrence Howard) was loosely based on the personal experience of out show creator Lee Daniels. ‘Empire’ featured two of Jamal’s boyfriends and a bisexual musician named Tiana, all of whom were played by people of color. The success of shows like ‘Empire’ and ABC’s ‘How to Get Away with Murder’ demonstrates that striving for diversity isn’t just an admirable goal for TV networks, but a smart business decision.”
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.