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TV is seeing more diverse hires among its first-time directors, new DGA study shows

Episodic television production is becoming more diverse as more women and ethnic minorities landed first-time directing jobs last season than in the previous seven seasons, according to a new study released Wednesday by the Directors Guild of America.

The study showed that 25% of all freshman hires in the 2016-17 TV season were ethnic minorities, up from 15% in the previous season. Women also saw strides, comprising 32% of all first-time hires for the season, up from 24% in the prior season.

First-time directing jobs in television are highly coveted positions that are seen as important gateways to an industry pipeline that is notoriously crowded and competitive.

“The fact is, it all starts with the pipeline,” Thomas Schlamme, president of the DGA, said in a statement. “The hiring decisions employers make today can have enormous impact on the composition of the pool in two years, five years, ten years time.”

Since the 2009-10 season, the percentage of ethnic minority freshman TV directors has more than doubled, while the percentage of women has nearly tripled, according to the report.

The guild said it has been pressing studios, networks and producers to be more inclusive in hiring for more than 30 years, but progress has been glacial. The report on Wednesday didn’t include data specific to the networks, and a guild spokesperson said that information wasn’t immediately available.

The DGA said the 2016-17 season saw an all-time hiring high of 225 directors who had never directed episodic television, representing a 42% increase over the previous season.

The soaring demand comes at a time in the industry known as “peak TV,” with networks, cable channels and streaming giants producing more TV series of higher artistic quality.

But the industry has been criticized for failing to hire directors who reflect the gender and ethnic makeup of the larger population. The criticism has been part of a larger debate on diversity in Hollywood that has touched everything from casting to major awards shows such as the Oscars and the Emmys.

david.ng@latimes.com

@DavidNgLAT

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