Hollywood still isn't reflecting the nation's diversity in its entertainment products, and that omission is costing the industry considerable amounts in lost revenues.
That's the main conclusion of a comprehensive report about diversity in the film and TV industry released Wednesday by UCLA's Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies. The study, which is titled "2014 Hollywood Diversity Report: Making Sense of the Disconnect," finds that minorities and women are represented far below their corresponding percentages in the general population.
"The fact is that America is becoming more and more diverse, but the Hollywood industry hasn't kept up," said Darnell Hunt, the lead author of the report and the center's director. "There's been a little progress, but it's been at a glacial pace. Hollywood is woefully out of touch with an emerging America."
Hunt said that while executives at Hollywood studios and networks repeatedly maintain that diversity is important, there seems to be little progress.
"They don't see diversity as being good for the marketplace," said Hunt. "They only address it when there's protest and the cage is rattled."
The report analyzed more than 1,000 TV shows on 68 different cable and broadcast networks during the 2011-2012 season, and also 172 American-made movies in 2011. Researchers examined the level of diversity in front of and behind the camera, the rosters of Hollywood's most prominent talent agencies, and the winners of Oscars, Emmys and other honors.
The year in film in 2011 seemed to typify the underrepresentation of minorities. In that year, minorities had lead roles in just under 11% of the 172 films considered. Meanwhile, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census, non-white minorities account for about 36% of the nation's population.
The failure of Hollywood to accurately mirror the nation's multicultural nature is putting a major dent in potential box office and ratings, added Hunt. Audiences tend to gravitate toward films and TV series that feature diversity, which translate into higher profits for networks and studios.
"The motion picture and TV academies are overwhelmingly white and male and they've been setting the standards for what they feel is successful or funny or good," Hunt said. "But the demographics are changing and those standards are not as solid now. Increasing diversity should happen not just for the social good, but because it makes perfect business sense."