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Networks, Studios Won't Discuss Minority Reports

June 17, 1993|GREG BRAXTON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Television networks and movie studios appeared Wednesday to have reached a consensus on two new studies criticizing the entertainment industry's record in hiring minorities and women for writing and acting jobs.

The consensus seemed to be: "Let's not talk about it."

ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, along with several major film studios such as 20th Century Fox, Columbia, Universal and Warner Bros., all declined or failed to respond to requests for comment about charges by the Writers Guild of America, West, the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists that significant barriers still exist for minorities and women in the writing and acting fields.

MGM disputed the reports. "MGM's hiring practices are probably exemplary, and are better than many in the industry," said studio spokesman Craig Parsons, disputing a conclusion by the Writers Guild that the company did not hire any minority writers from 1987 through 1991, the period covered by the survey.

Parsons heralded MGM's efforts to increase minority representation as among the best in the business: "In terms of going forward, they're doing what they've always done."

The Writers Guild concluded that only modest gains had been made by the industry in the employment of minority writers in television and feature films in general, while substantial improvements had been made at a few companies. The survey said that although women writers made slight gains in the television industry, there was little change in the percentage of women writing for the movies.

A report released Tuesday by the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, Hollywood's two major actors' unions, found that white males under 40 work more and earn more than any other group. Women, minorities, older people and the disabled are vastly under-represented on screen in comparison to their actual numbers in society, according to the study.

Representatives from minority watchdog organizations said that the lack of studio and network response is indicative of an industry that continually has been indifferent and insensitive to taking steps to overcome racism and sexism.

"It's the same old thing," said Esther Renteria, president of the National Hispanic Media Coalition. "Hispanic writers are not being hired, Hispanic-American writers are not being hired and Hispanic actors and actresses are not being hired."

Renteria said there were only five continuing Latino roles on network prime-time entertainment shows last season.

Elaine Pounds, head of the Black Media Coalition, a local group of industry employees and others, said, "Things were supposed to change. But they haven't."

The two reports will be introduced as evidence today in a hearing by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights examining Hollywood's role in determining how entertainment television portrays racial and ethnic minorities.

Several executives from the television industry are scheduled to address the commission, which will release its conclusions later this year.

Times staff writers Daniel Cerone and Monica Yant contributed to this story.

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