Commentary

For Women, Minorities, Online Is Like Old Media

While everybody is slapping each other on the back for streaming video’s success attracting talent, audience and advertisers, it’s probably worth pointing out that in terms of diversity, Online Video Is The New White.

Pretty much.

The Old White, by the way, is still doing very well on conventional television and in the movies.

A new report, the Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity (CARD) examined 109 films released by major studios in 2014 and 305 scripted, first-run TV and digital series from 31 networks and streaming services that aired over a 12-month span beginning in September 2014 to the following August.

It concluded that whites and males in high places are still the norm, regardless of the medium.

Netflix, Amazon and Hulu do pretty well in terms of putting minorities and women on screen, this report says. But behind the scenes, it’s the same old same old.

The study found only 20% of top bosses at the big streaming shops were female, not too far below television, cable  and film, but below nonetheless. But with minority representation, the figures were a lot worse. Among directors,  only 11% were non-white. That trailed cable (17%) and film (13%) but was better than broadcast, with 9.6%

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In fact, streaming media appears to be doing a better job green-lighting projects from women, who got 25% of them, according to this study. But when it comes to writing for those projects, only 12% of those slots went women on streaming projects,  third on the list.

The study was released earlier this week by the Media, Diversity and Social Change Initiative at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

It is getting more news play than usual this year because of the Oscars telecast Sunday where a major topic is the absence of minority nominees.

"The prequel to OscarsSoWhite is HollywoodSoWhite," said Stacy L. Smith, a USC professor and one of the study's authors, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune. "We don't have a diversity problem. We have an inclusion crisis.”

USC has put out the study for the last decade. This year, it started a new “inclusivity index” that ranked studios, networks and streamers based on the percentage of female, minority or LGBT characters, writers and directors.  Five of six studios scored no better than 20%, but the Tribune reports, Disney, the CW, Amazon and Hulu all hit 65% or above when the behind the scenes and in front of the camera stats are totaled up.

“The very companies that are inclusive — Disney, CW, Hulu, Amazon to some degree — those companies, if they're producing and distributing motion pictures, can do this. We now have evidence that they can, and they can thrive,” Smith told the Tribune.  

But absent from that list is Netflix, whose 20% ranking on the inclusion list is one way that streaming service is looking a lot like the TV networks that all ranked that low, too.

pj@mediapost.com
1 comment about "For Women, Minorities, Online Is Like Old Media".
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  1. Ruth Barrett from EarthSayers.tv, February 24, 2016 at 6:20 p.m.

    While I respect the effort put into getting the numbers, this is what I have seen done over and over again, year after year, in many industries that are sadly part of the inclusion crisis to include my own, information technology to include new media and video streaming. Indeed Catalyst.org has been keeping up with the numbers as part of their being the "most trusted resource for knowledge on gender, leadership and inclusive talent management in the world."  

    It's as if we didn't know the length and breadth of discrimination for women and minorities by virtue of our own work experience, a glance around room after room of business meetings, attendance at professional and trade shows, lists of speakers and presenters, job interviews, websites of tech start-ups, or the walls filled with photos of an organization's leadership through the ages whether it be a school of business or local business alliance or elected council. 

    The only light at the end of the tunnel in my experience throughout the decades was affirmative action. Any wonder it didn't last long.  We need low or no cost legal aid services, another service squeezed to death or near death in many cities, to address discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace.  We need to stand in support of President Obama's work in equal pay legislation (Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act) and the EEOC Action on Pay Data, one area of research where there has been little information, the unequal pay situation often attributed (supposedly) to the inability of women to negotiate a salary which ignores the length and breadth of the problem and my own personal experience. 

    But getting back to the numbers thing. We can't keep counting and counting. It keeps us busy, but if it where a numbers thing, we wouldn't be were we are now, outside in the cold. 

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