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Eva Longoria Parker is pictured in a scene from ABC’s “Desperate Housewives.” ABC has been more successful than other networks in promoting Latino actors on scripted shows.

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Networks improving Hispanic presence – on both sides of camera
January 6th, 2010
By Mark Pattison

WASHINGTON (CNS) – Every year in early January, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops celebrates National Migration Week. The theme for the Jan. 3-9 observance in 2010 is “Renewing Hope, Seeking Justice.”

A 2005 Census Bureau estimate of the number of Hispanics living in the United States put the figure at 14.4 percent of the population – up from 12.5 percent at the time of the 2000 census. But a 2008 Screen Actors Guild survey said Latinos get only 6.4 percent of the roles cast.

How well are Hispanics migrating from Main Street to the small screen? And how much justice is there in hiring Hispanics for either side of the camera?

In December, the National Latino Media Council issued its ninth annual network television report card, grading the four largest commercial networks on their ability to hire Hispanic talent.

Often, the news is the same grim and downbeat assessment lamenting a lack of change. This year, though, most of the grades for most of the networks reflected above-average results.

“There has been incremental progress at all four networks in terms of American Latinos,” said an announcement from the National Latino Media Council when it issued the grades.

The council measures institutional programs and efforts to bring Latinos into the employment ranks both in front of and behind the camera; hiring that is concrete and measurable; and the submission of clear, statistical data used to accurately grade diversity performance.

ABC received an overall grade of B plus.

“In recent years, ABC has been more successful than any other network in promoting Latino actors on scripted shows,” the council said, citing Eva Longoria Parker of “Desperate Housewives,” America Ferrera of “Ugly Betty” and Sara Ramirez of “Grey’s Anatomy” as three Hispanics who “play groundbreaking roles that shatter traditional stereotypes.”

The council applauded ABC’s investment of time and money to develop Latino writers, but noted the network needed to improve its number of Latino directors, which is down to four – half as many as in 2007 – and the number of creative executives, with only one Hispanic in this field.

“It’s essential that Latinos be at the table where decisions are being made about original content and talent,” the council said.

NBC improved from a B to a B plus in casting for scripted shows. The council mentioned the work of Alana de la Garza on “Law & Order,” Oscar Nunez on “The Office” and Dania Ramirez on “Heroes.”

The network got an A in business procurement with the American Latino community.

“NBC this year outdid itself by posting truly impressive total-spent numbers,” the council said. “It clearly shows what can be done when a company decides that it is going to search for and add Latinos and other people of color to their vendors list.”

But when it came to creative executives, NBC got an F, dragging down its overall grade to C plus.

“This network is the only one that has not included at least one Latino in its creative team for several years,” the council said. “It is essential that NBC include Latinos at the table where decisions are being made regarding original content and talent. We have waited long enough to see progress in this arena and are no longer willing to wait.”

CBS got an overall grade of B, mostly for its off-screen work, including the number of Hispanic directors it hires, its acting workshops and talent showcases, and a new “Daytime Diversity Initiative” meant to bring more people of color to its stable of daytime dramas, although “Guiding Light” was axed this fall and “As the World Turns” will be gone after next summer.

One weak spot the council saw at CBS was writers.

“Although having less then a handful of Latino writers for prime-time series is inexcusable, we continue to grade by comparison in hope that we will see substantial progress in the near future,” it said. In the area of business procurement, CBS garnered a C minus, as lack of centralized data made monitoring more difficult.

Fox finished with an overall grade of B plus, as the council expressed its admiration for Hispanic casting in such scripted shows as “24,” the now-canceled “Prison Break” and “Fringe,” and even its contest shows like “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance.”

“We also applaud Fox for its inclusion of Latinos in its executive creative team and the network has established a proactive outreach initiative to recruit Latinos throughout its workforce,” the council said.


From January 8, 2010 issue of Catholic San Francisco.


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