The GAO’s recent report on Latinos in Media is just the latest in a long series of data studies confirming what we see far too often with our own eyes – like too many American businesses and institutions, the media and entertainment industry still doesn’t fully reflect the diversity of our nation.
Especially behind the camera and in executive and production lead jobs that shape the future and decide what stories get told and what values are celebrated – overall GAO found that in 2019, Latinos made up just 8% of the workforce across newsrooms, media, and entertainment. It’s unacceptable.
Hollywood has clearly worked hard to tell a richer and more diverse set of stories. From In The Heights, which we applaud, to Shang-Chi and The Legend of the Ten Rings, a blockbuster success that led a recent NY Times headline to proclaim “Asian Americans Are Finally Getting the Heroes We Deserve.” Industry leaders can take great pride in moving from a past where diverse characters were relegated to supporting and antisocial roles to a present where usually-critical studies report that cast diversity has “skyrocketed.”
It’s the right thing to do and smart business since the film industry’s own data consistently shows that diverse audiences “overperform” – providing audiences that outstrip their share of the overall population.
But it doesn’t solve the industry’s longer-term problems. Only dedicated efforts to fill the employment pipeline with diverse new talent and to cast the widest possible net for filmmakers and executive decisionmakers can deliver the real change and concrete results the moment demands.
Fortunately, many leaders in the creative community seem to understand this – and are putting real resources behind the most meaningful efforts we have ever seen to move forward and build an industry that celebrates ALL of our country.
Earlier this year, dissatisfied with the findings of their own internal study of representation across its catalog, Netflix launched a $100 million five year plan to fund organizations that help underrepresented communities find jobs in TV and film.
Disney has taken an unflinching look at the need to chart a more diverse future by turning one of its signature slogans on its head with a cutting edge “Reimagining Tomorrow” website and slate of initiatives.
And ViacomCBS also recently announced the expansion of BET’s Content for Change into a companywide initiative. Content for Change is a bold initiative that seeks to apply scientific research and data to transform its entire creative ecosystem in an effort to influence societal change, starting with racial equity and mental health.
In addition to these cross-cutting initiatives, others in the industry have focused even more narrowly on the core problem identified by the GAO – diverse participation in behind-the-scenes jobs and decision making. A new incubator program operated by the National Association of Latino Independent Producers in partnership with Disney, the Motion Picture Association, Starz and many other film, television and streaming companies, for example, will deliver training, mentoring, and hands-on production opportunities to a dozen young Hispanic filmmakers every year. This joins similar efforts to push change all the way down the production stack so that at every level, the film, television, and streaming industry reflects American diversity and benefits from as many different point of views and perspectives as possible. And closer to home, MPA recently announced a Law and Policy Fellowship which will provide minority serving institution law school grads with entertainment industry experience in both Los Angeles and Washington.
Leaders in Congress and civil society who have focused attention on this issue have done our nation an incredible service. We need media and storytelling that is accessible and relevant to everyone.
We’re not there yet. But we believe we are on our way.