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New study finds less than 5% of TV writers are black

RARE: According to The Hollywood Reporter, Fox's 'Rosewood' was the only crime procedural with more than two black writers (Photo credit: Photofest/ The Hollywood Reporter)

A NEW report by Darnell Hunt, dean of social sciences of the UCLA College, analysed the small numbers of black television writers and the need to meet diversity hiring requirements.

According to UCLA Newsroom, nearly two-thirds of all TV shows examined, lacked a single black writer and hired just one or a small number of black writers. The report suggests that the select few black writers selected could aid in perpetuating harmful stereotypes about black people.

Hunt found that those “token” hires actually limit the likelihood that a critical mass of writers of colour can build seniority over time and gain influence in the industry, which limits their ability to influence how stories are told and how minorities are represented on screen.

The study was commissioned by the advocacy group Colour of Change and examined all 234 original, scripted comedy and drama series airing or streaming on 18 networks during the 2016–17 television seasons in America.

The study found 65 percent of all writers rooms had zero black writers, and across all shows, less than 5 percent of writers were black.

Speaking on his findings, Hunt said: “leaders in the entertainment industry today realise they are going to have to adapt to changing market conditions with respect to content. We know it’s profitable to create more diverse content, even though the conventional wisdom about what sells — and how marketable and profitable genuinely multiracial content is — often trails quite far behind the data.”

The report reveals that the exclusion of black writers from writers’ rooms results in content that furthers stereotypical and harmful representations of black people — a dynamic that’s especially evident in procedural crime dramas.

The report also found that major networks’ diversity programs are failing to improve opportunities for black writers and other writers of colour.

Hunt created the Hollywood Diversity Report, which tracks the inclusion of minorities and women throughout the film and TV industries.

UCLA Newsroom reports the fifth annual report, which will be published in early 2018, will examine top-grossing theatrical films from 2016 as well as TV, cable and digital platform shows from the 2015–16 season.

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