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Hispanics See TV Hiring Progress

Hispanics See TV Hiring Progress

By Lynn Elber

The TV season that brought Emmy honors to "Ugly Betty" star America Ferrera also saw a rise in employment opportunities for Hispanics at the major networks, according to a report released Tuesday.

The eighth annual survey by a coalition formed to push for more minority hiring for on- and off-camera jobs in broadcasting found Hispanics made encouraging if "incremental" progress.

Network programs created to foster diversity "are now bearing fruit, and it is not unreasonable to expect that the present numbers will continue to climb and that there will be no backsliding," said Esteban Torres, head of the National Latino Media Council.

The council comprises 14 major Hispanic civil rights organizations, including the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Mexican American Legal Defense & Education Fund.

The analysis of 2006-07 season scripted and reality shows was based on information supplied by the networks.

ABC, home of "Ugly Betty" and its Hispanic star, led in diversifying its work force, with CBS, NBC and Fox all earning commendations for improvement. The networks earned overall grades of A and B on the council's "report card."

Fox, however, was rebuked for what the council said was its failure to match other networks in fully disclosing hiring data.

Fox responded Wednesday that "while we will be happy to provide the numbers of actors, writers and directors of color, we believe they have a reasonable expectation of privacy and will not provide their names."

The network statement said Fox "remains steadfast in our diversity efforts."

The TV picture was deemed less bright by other minority groups that are part of the diversity effort.

In a report card issued by the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition, none of the networks improved their overall grade from last year.

A total of 29 Asian-Americans were cast in regular roles in prime-time programs, just two more than last year, and many roles lacked "significant air time," the coalition found.

"When compared to other racial groups, (Asian-Pacific-Americans) are still far less likely to be in starring roles in prime-time programming, although a number of shows are set in cities" with large Asian-American populations, the coalition said in a statement.

The group singled out two "standout shows" with choice roles for Asian-American actors: "Grey's Anatomy," with Korean-Canadian star Sandra Oh, and "Heroes" with Japanese-born Masi Oka.

It was heartening to see the number of Asian-American writers and producers rebound from a severe drop last year, the group said, but the numbers remained inadequate. The ranks of Asian-Pacific directors were cut from 27 the previous year to 23 last season.

When it comes to hiring of American Indians, the networks earned overall grades of D or C in an analysis that focused on scripted shows.

"Behind the camera, American Indians remain invisible. ... We are still misunderstood and underrepresented in front of the camera," said Mark S. Reed of American Indians in Film and TV.

The group lauded the hiring of Adam Beach ("Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," "Flags of Our Fathers"), a Salteaux Indian from Canada, as a series regular on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."

An original partner of the diversity, the NAACP, has not participated in recent evaluations.

(Front photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)

Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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