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Cable Technology Feature Article

October 12, 2012

GLAAD Study Reveals Highest Levels of LGBT Characters

By Steve Anderson, Contributing TMCnet Writer

The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation—GLAAD--has recently released its annual “Where We Are On TV” report, and the news will likely bring hope to some. The results of that survey detailed that the number of LGBT—Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered—characters on television was at its highest level ever.

The survey showed that LGBT characters accounted for 4.4 percent of regular characters on scripted series, up from 2.9 percent in 2011. The total number of LGBT characters had been in flux for years, from a relative low of 1.1 percent in 2007 to the old high-water mark of 3.9 percent in 2010.

The “Where We Are On TV” survey studies 97 different scripted series across the major five broadcast networks, and provides a breakdown accordingly, also calculating racial diversity figures. Those figures were equally telling in their own right, with an increase in Black characters while Latino and Latina characters alike saw a slight drop. The current high-water mark in LGBT programming is on ABC, where 5.2 percent of regular characters identifying somewhere in the LGBT matrix, with Fox in second at 5.1 percent. Fox is actually down slightly, as last year, they were on top of the rankings. Meanwhile, The CW network came in at 4.9 percent, NBC brought in 4.2 percent, and finally, CBS brought its numbers up from 0.7 percent to 2.8 percent, which the GLAAD report saw as “an authentic and conscious effort by CBS to improve its diversity”.

Mainstream cable also brought in a large number of LGBT characters, as networks from Showtime to ABC Family feature some level of characters in the matrix, with True Blood leading the pack with the largest number of LGBT characters in the mix.

Regardless of an individual stance on the matter—and there are certainly plenty of those across the entire spectrum of potential reaction—it's clear that the issue of sexual orientation on television is an issue that is not being simply ignored. For good or ill, the issue is being acknowledged and dealt with across the spectrum, which most would likely conclude is a positive development. Simply ignoring a major issue such as sexual identity will not cause it to vanish, but rather, exposure to the topic requires that it be dealt with, honestly, and candidly.

The appearance of LGBT characters is likely to continue for some time, and though the overall numbers and percentages may change from year to year, the issue itself will not have an opportunity to fade away.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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