According to a new study, the CW was the best-performing broadcast network on television last season, while CBS is “failing.”
No, these aren’t the Nielsen ratings – which show almost entirely opposite results, putting CBS on a pedestal and the CW in the basement. They’re the findings of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s sixth annual Network Responsibility Index, which analyzes the quantity and quality of images of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people on TV.
GLAAD researched thousands of hours of primetime programming on the five major broadcast networks – including NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, and The CW – and 10 cable networks during the 2011-12 television season, which was measured from June 1, 2011, to May 31, 2012.
No channel earned the best possible rating of “Excellent” for the 2011-12 season, but the CW was again the top broadcast network because 29 percent of its primetime programming hours were LGBT inclusive. ABC was in second place at 27 percent (up one spot and 4 percent from the previous year) and Fox came in third with 24 percent (down one spot and 5 percent). NBC was “Adequate” with 19 percent LGBT inclusive hours, an increase of four percent from last year thanks in part to “Smash” and “The Voice.” NBC’s new sitcom “The New Normal” is expected to bump up its ranking even more this season.
Among the broadcast networks, CBS came in last for the fourth year in a row, with only 8 percent of its primetime programming being inclusive of LGBT characters.
On cable, 46 percent of Showtime’s original programming was LGBT inclusive, landing the premium channel in the top spot. ABC Family, TNT, and HBO also received “Good” ratings. MTV, FX, and USA received “Adequate” scores. TBS was “Failing” for the fourth year in a row.
According to GLAAD, “The report is intended to serve as a road map toward increasing fair, accurate, and inclusive LGBT media representations.”
“Americans expect to see their off-screen worlds represented onscreen and today more than ever that includes LGBT people and families,” GLAAD President Herndon Graddick said in a statement. “Storylines of families like Mitchell and Cameron on ‘Modern Family’ and young people like Emily on ‘Pretty Little Liars’ are not only growing acceptance of our community, but have found praise from viewers and critics alike at a time when visibility and acceptance of LGBT people is at an all-time high.”
TLC and History, which GLAAD says are “known for programming that traditionally appeals to a more conservative audience,” were included in the study for the first time this year. TLC was “Adequate” with 20 percent, but History received a “Failing” grade with only 3 percent.
GLAAD also examined the racial diversity of LGBT characters on screen, and the CW ranked as the most racially diverse: 62 percent of LGBT appearances on the network were by people of color. But GLAAD was compelled to encourage the other networks to recognize broader diversity in their programming because overall, the vast majority of LGBT-inclusive programming last year featured only Caucasians.
“Including an ethnically diverse cast of characters will not only be a more accurate reflection of the LGBT community but will also give programs the opportunity to build authentic and complex storylines,” Graddick said.
GLAAD's 17th annual “Where We Are on TV” report, estimating diversity on television for the 2012-13 season, will be published in September.
GLAAD’s complete rankings for the 2011-12 TV season are below.
1. The CW (29 percent)
2. ABC (27)
3. Fox (24)
4. NBC (19)
5. CBS (8)
1. Showtime (46 percent)
2. ABC Family (34)
3. FX (34)
4. TNT (34)
5. HBO (33)
6. MTV (23)
7. TLC (20)
8. USA (17)
9. TBS (5)
10. History (3)