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Coalition Laments the Invisibility of Asians, Native Americans on TV

CBS gets the lowest overall grade of the four networks rated by the diversity advocates. Fox gets the highest mark.

October 14, 2003|Greg Braxton | Times Staff Writer

A report released Monday by an advocacy group monitoring diversity on TV applauded the increasing visibility of blacks and Latinos in front of and behind TV cameras, but lamented the continuing invisibility of Asians and Native Americans.

Leaders of the Multi-Ethnic Media Coalition, which tracks how well ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox are honoring a 1999 agreement to increase diversity, said at a news conference that they would continue to pressure the networks to better reflect a multicultural society.

As part of the news conference, the Asian Pacific Media Coalition and the National Latino Media Council issued "report cards" to the networks. Apesanahkwat, an actor representing American Indians in Film & Television, said his group chose not to issue a report card, adding that he was disheartened by the virtual absence of Native Americans on television but was optimistic because of several initiatives being considered to increase Native American representation.

In previous years, the three organizations issued one combined grade to each network, under the umbrella of the Multi-Ethnic Coalition, which also includes the NAACP. This year, because of disagreements over how much progress has been made, the groups made individual reports. The NAACP will issue its report next week.

"All of the networks have finally come to the realization it's good business to incorporate people of color," Esteban Torres, chairman of the Multi-Ethnic Media Coalition, said.

Executives at the networks contended that they had made significant improvements in increasing diversity on television.

Of the four networks, CBS, which landed at the bottom last year with an overall grade of D-minus from the coalition, received the lowest overall mark of any network evaluated by the two groups -- a D-plus given by the Asian organization.

Karen K. Narasaki, chairwoman of the group, said the network had limited improvement from last year, and in the matter of Asians on screen, "the situation has continued to further deteriorate."

However, she added that the network had demonstrated a recent increase in its commitment to diversity, which raised its overall grade.

CBS was awarded a C-plus by the National Latino Media Council. Torres, also chair of the Latino council, praised CBS Television Chairman and Chief Executive Leslie Moonves for increasing the Latino presence in prime time and for spearheading the network's commitment to diversity.

"We're pleased with the recognition that our commitment to diversity received," CBS said.

Fox received the highest overall grade -- a B-plus from the Latino council. The Asian group gave Fox a B-minus.

The Asian group awarded an overall grade of C-minus to ABC and B-minus to NBC.

The Latino group gave an overall grade of B to ABC and C-plus to NBC.

The network grades were based on several categories, including the number of minority actors, writers, producers, directors and entertainment executives, and the commitment to diversity initiatives.

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