The portrayal of LGBT people on television is improving while also losing only slight ground according to two annual studies on the television industry conducted by GLAAD and published last week.
GLAAD released two reports that keep tabs on television trends and bring attention to the dearth in the representation and respectful portrayal of broad groups of people. The reports consider sexual orientation as well as race, gender, and ability.
The Network Responsibility Index looks back at LGBT representation on shows of the past year. This year, FOX received the highest rating of any network with a ranking of “Good” on the study’s scale. GLAAD found nearly half (42%) of FOX programming included LGBT images. No network was ranked as having “Excellent” coverage. ABC and ABC Family also posted relatively high scores. The History Channel, on the other hand, ranked as “failing” after neglecting to include a single LGBT image in last season’s programs.
The sister report, titled “Where We Are on TV” looks ahead to the upcoming season to count the number of LGBT television characters and evaluate the manner in which they are portrayed. GLAAD noted a decrease in the overall number of LGBT characters on scripted primetime broadcast television expected to appear this season, representing 3.3% of recurring characters (down slightly from a record high of 4.4% in 2012).
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Why do we care?
It’s only fair that LGBT viewers be able to watch programming that positively represents, rather than ignores or condemns, their sexual orientation. Plus—progress in representing LGBT people on television may have spillover effects into the real world, according to the executive summary of the Network Responsibility Index.
“Time and again it’s been shown that personally knowing an LGBT person is one of the most influential factors in shifting one’s views on LGBT issues, but in the absence of that, many viewers have first gotten to know us as television characters,” the report states. Polls by GLAAD and The Hollywood Reporter showed a marked increase in favorable opinions of LGBT people by viewers who watched LGBT characters on TV.