September 24, 2007

Oh No! Dearth of Gays on Network Tube! highlights the AP story with the headline "Gay characters disappearing from network TV." But as is often typically the case, the situation is not as dire as it seems. The first paragraph reads:

A new report says a total of seven series on the five broadcast networks feature regular lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) characters this season, down from nine last season. The number has dropped for the past three years, according to the annual "Where We Are on TV" study by the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

"Studies" of this type will never produce "satisfactory" results since they would require an increase every year! In addition, with the "massive" decrease of two whole shows not featuring gay characters this season, doesn't this mean that it is likely some other "underrepresented group" thus gained representation?

"While we acknowledge there have been improvements made in how we are seen on the broadcast networks, most notably on ABC, our declining representation clearly indicates a failure to inclusively reflect the audience watching television," said GLAAD president Neil Giuliano.

Does it really? Gay Americans have an entire television cable network devoted to them, Logo. And the term "cable" is what makes this entire "the sky is falling" article unnecessary. Here is the very last paragraph of the story:

On the other hand, LGBT representation on the mainstream cable networks is skyrocketing with 57 characters this year, including 40 regular, up from a total of 35 (regular and recurring) last year.

So the news isn't quite as bad as it seems for gay Americans now, is it -- especially when considering just how cable TV has eaten away at network TV's share of the viewing public. Why would GLAAD even care much about the so-called "Big Three" networks anyway when, according to Media Life Magazine, that trio's audience share and ratings have been steadily declining -- and cable's have been steadily rising? Indeed, in 2004-2005, cable TV was virtually deadlocked with broadcast TV for audience share. The Television Bureau of Advertising indicates that the total household viewer share for all broadcast [ad-supported] networks is only a mere 4.35 points higher than all of [ad-supported] cable programming.

The AP didn't bother to report just how prodigious cable TV's share of the viewing audience really is. This fact, combined with the incredible increase in the number of gay characters on cable shows (which was noted by the AP, but not until the very end of the article) would have completely shredded the entire basis for GLAAD's "concern."

(Cross-posted at NewsBusters.)

Posted by Hube at September 24, 2007 06:09 PM | TrackBack

Comments  (We reserve the right to edit and/or delete any comments. If your comment is blocked or won't post, e-mail us and we'll post it for you.)

A comment purely on the logic of the study you use to back up what you're saying about the networks:

If I understand this typical type of study correctly, they're comparing the couple hundred ad-supported cable outlets -- put together -- with seven broadcast networks put together, and reasoning that these several hundred outlets put together are now only losing to these 7 networks by a little bit. And this is impressive why?

Let's say the presidential ballot in 2008 included Hillary Clinton, Rudy Giuliani and then 100 or so qualified independents. The voting might break down like this:

Giuliani 29%
Clinton 28%
Each independent: 0.3% (or whatever it comes to)

Would it be logical to say that the independents are nearly as popular than the major candidates? Well, yes, I suppose, in a technical way. But does that actually mean voters now like Independents more than the major candidates, in any real sense?

Obviously networks' share of the market is going to shrink as there are more outlets available. This is evidence of....well...not much, except that there are more channels now. If there were 300 other networks showing varied, quality programming, the Big Three's influence would wane in the same way. People care about the "Big Three" (well, Four) because people still watch the se individual networks -- and their shows -- more than any others -- by hefty margins.

Posted by: dan at September 24, 2007 10:00 PM

On the other hand, LGBT representation on the mainstream cable networks is skyrocketing with 57 characters this year, including 40 regular, up from a total of 35 (regular and recurring) last year.

To be clear: you view this as "bias" by the AP, and I view it as both terrible reporting AND quite possibly disingenuous whining by GLAAD!: If there are 57 gay characters on 300 cable channels, and 7 gay characters on 5 broadcast networks...who's featuring more gay characters?

Posted by: dan at September 24, 2007 10:07 PM

I remember similar crises a decade or so ago. First there weren't enough minority characters. Then when there were enough, they weren't portrayed in a flattering light. You can't win these "studies."

Posted by: soccer dad at October 3, 2007 12:38 AM