Diversity: A TV Reality Check

In the midst of the “Black-ish” hoopla, I decided to see what headways my brown brothers and sisters were making on primetime TV. I was pleasantly surprised when I found two new shows, “Cristela” and “Jane the Virgin,” premiering this fall. Both shows are  centered on the lives of two Hispanic women and their families. Why was I surprised? Well,  when’s the last time you saw a predominately Hispanic cast on TV other than the “George Lopez” show? In the time that it probably took you to answer that question, I was able to do some digging and figure out why there seems to be a sudden interest in producing minority shows.

Here’s what I found:

Maxine Walters

Recently the FCC has been under pressure by Congresswoman Maxine Waters (pictured above),  and other law makers to increase media diversity in programming, ownership and executive leadership roles.  As a result, Comcast, one of the largest broadcasting and cable companies in the world, has stepped up its diversity initiatives.

Since Waters and her buddies from the Black Caucus have demanded the FCC  commit to increasing diversity, Comcast has brought us “Black-ish” the first major network comedy to revolve around a black family in almost 10 years and “Cristela,” and “Jane the Virgin,” two shows centered on Hispanic families.

Comcast is also giving minorities the opportunity to own networks. Since Comcast’s new found commitment to diversity,  Revolt, P-Diddy’s music network, and El Rey (owned by Robert Rodriguez),  a network targeting second and third generation English-speaking Hispanics, has emerged. As for my Asian-Americans…they still have some work to do.

Although Comcast thinks it’s a good idea for TV to reflect American demographics, some Americans are overwhelmed by the number of minorities flashing across their TV screens. Some have even requested a show called “White-ish” be created to balance out “Black-ish.” From this  response, I concluded some people need a  TV reality check.

Let me try to break it down for you.

“If you look at shows now that seem to lack diversity, they actually feel dated, because America doesn’t look like that anymore. People want to see what they live, and they want to see voices that reflect the America that they know.” – ABC Entertainment Group President Paul Lee (source: mysanantonio.com)

“What disenfranchises people is not having a sense of belonging. We are 18 percent Hispanic in the U.S., but on TV, we [minorities] represent only 5 percent of major roles. Behind the camera, it’s like 2 percent — and I’m one of those percentages!” –Robert Rodriguez , owner of El Rey (source: hollywoodreporter.com)

“You know, being a maid is fantastic [reference to “Devious Maids”]. I have many family members that have fed many of their families on doing that job, but there are other stories that need to be told. And I think that the media is a venue to educate and teach our next generation:” – Gina Rodriguez, lead actress from “Jane the Virgin” (source: mysanantonio.com)

When minorities demand their own shows and networks, we aren’t attempting to separate ourselves  from the rest of America. It’s about wanting to feel like we belong. It’s about adding our page to the American story and having the opportunity to broadcast it to the world.

P.S.
“Cristela” primers on Friday, Oct. 10 at 8:30 p.m. on ABC and “Jane the Virgin” premiers on Monday, Oct. 13 at 8 p.m. on CW.

4 Comments

  1. I worked with diversity during my internship with Comcast and learned a lot about those networks ad their other diversity efforts. Interesting to see you mention it here!

  2. I’m looking forward to the premiere of these shows! Finally the media is starting to reflect the diversity of our country. Kudos to those in power who are demanding diversity and to the networks that are giving these shows an opportunity.

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