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GLAAD: Showtime, the CW leading the way on TV in showcasing LGBT characters

LOS ANGELES – How is the LGBT community faring on television? It’s a question that GLAAD has answered for the past six years.

The 2011-12 TV season is a mixed bag in that no network scored an “Excellent” rating in the sixth annual Network Responsibility Index, a report that maps the quantity, quality and diversity of images of LGBT people on television.

GLAAD said that Showtime scored best with 46% of its original programming including some LGBT representation, earning a score of “Good.” Primetime programming on the five broadcast networks was evaluated as well as original primetime programming on 10 major cable networks.

The report notes that the number of LGBT images has stabilized this TV season as the range of impressions continues to grow. Images of LGBT representations and families are increasingly presented as matter-of-fact manner rather than a curiosity.

With 69% of LGBT impressions on broadcast networks made by gay men and 66% of LGBT-inclusive broadcast hours showcasing white people, the report also calls for networks to highlight the great ethnic and cultural diversity of the LGBT community.

For the first time this year GLAAD tracked two highly rated networks known for programming that traditionally appeals to a more conservative audience.

The History Channel posted the lowest overall percentage (3%) of LGBT inclusive hours of any networks tracked this year. TLC demonstrated that LGBT people can be represented in a wider range of programming formats and subjects with 20% of the 545.5 hours tracked by GLAAD including at least one LGBT impression.

“Americans expect to see their off-screen worlds represented onscreen and today more than ever that includes LGBT people and families,” GLAAD president Herndon Graddick said. “Storylines of families like Mitchell and Cameron on ‘Modern Family’ and young people like Emily on ‘Pretty Little Liars’ are not only growing acceptance of our community, but have found praise from viewers and critics alike at a time when visibility and acceptance of LGBT people is at an all-time high.”

Broadcast networks

• The CW remains the top broadcast network with 29% of its primetime programming hours being LGBT-inclusive. The CW also registered the most racial diversity with 62% of impressions made by LGBT people/characters of color, thanks to programs like “America’s Next Top Model.”

• ABC improved enough (+4%) and Fox declined enough (-5%) for the two to swap places for second and third place in percentage of inclusive hours compared to last year. NBC remained in fourth place despite an increase of 4% in LGBT inclusive hours.

• For the fourth year in a row CBS remained in last place with 8% LGBT-inclusive hours of primetime programming, dropping 2 percentage points from last year. After receiving an “Adequate” score last year, the network is back to a “Failing” score.

Cable networks

• Showtime (46%), ABC Family (34%), TNT (34%), and HBO (33%) all received “Good” ratings for the quantity and quality of their LGBT-inclusive original programming. GLAAD cited HBO's "True Blood" as an example of a series with numerous LGBT characters and plots.

• MTV (23%) which received an “Excellent” score two years ago received an “Adequate” score this year along with FX (34%), TLC (20%) and USA (17%).

• For the fourth year in a row TBS (5%) received a “Failing” rating, as did the History network (3%).

Diversity impressions

The diversity of LGBT impressions on the broadcast networks declined slightly from last year, with 66% of LGBT impressions being white.

“Including an ethnically diverse cast of characters will not only be a more accurate reflection of the LGBT community but will also give programs the opportunity to build authentic and complex storylines,” Graddick said.

Transgender representation continues to be low on nearly every television network.

Transgender inclusive hours recorded on broadcast television went from 0.002% last year to 0.01% this year, the number also remained extremely low for the cable networks tracked at 0.005%. Transgender storylines are often exploitative and overtly negative; as were recorded on several series on Showtime this year, which prevented the network from receiving an “Excellent” score.

One of the highlights in transgender images this year was Chaz Bono’s appearance on “Dancing With The Stars,” which sparked national conversations about the community and created a momentum in transgender representation in reality television.

“The appearance of Chaz Bono on ‘Dancing With The Stars’ was a groundbreaking step in transgender representation on television this year,” Graddick said. “His very candid appearance on the program taught many that transgender Americans deserve respect and acceptance.”

The 17th annual GLAAD Where We Are On TV report on diversity will be issued in the fall. This analysis will count LGBT characters and storylines as well as the gender and race/ethnicity of all scripted characters scheduled to appear during the 2012-13 broadcast season.