UCLA Study Documents the Low Representation of Black Writers in Television

A new report by Darnell Hunt, dean of social sciences and professor of sociology and African American studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, examines that status of Black writers in the television industry.

This study considered 1,678 first-run episodes from all 234 of the original, scripted comedy and drama series airing or streaming on 18 broadcast, cable, and digital platforms during the 2016-17 television season.

The report demonstrates that the executives running television platforms today — both traditional networks and emerging streaming sites — are not hiring Black showrunners, which results in excluding or isolating Black writers in writers’ rooms and in the creative process. Over 90 percent of showrunners are white, two-thirds of shows had no Black writers at all, and another 17 percent of shows had just one Black writer.

The report reveals that the exclusion of Black writers from writers’ rooms results in content that furthers stereotypical and harmful representations of Black people — a dynamic that’s especially evident in procedural crime dramas. The report also found that major networks’ diversity programs are failing to meaningfully improve opportunities for Black writers and other writers of color.

Below is a video of Professor Hunt discussing his study.

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