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More diversity in film and TV? New report says women and minorities are actually falling behind

With all the attention bestowed on diversity in Hollywood in recent years, minorities must be making big gains in film and TV, right?

Not quite, according to a new report from UCLA that looked at media portrayals as well as employment behind the camera.

Over the past two years, people of color posted a small gain of less than two percentage points among lead actors of scripted broadcast TV shows (from 6.5% to 8.1%, according to the 2016 Hollywood Diversity Report due to be released Thursday morning by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies. That includes shows such as ABC's hit drama "Scandal," with African American star Kerry Washington. Taken collectively, minority groups make up nearly 38% of the U.S. population and are expected to become a majority within a few decades. 

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The other categories - including directors, writers and stars of feature films - were a different story. "Minorities lost ground in six of the 11 arenas examined and merely held their ground in the other four," said the report, written by UCLA sociology professor Darnell Hunt, along with Ana-Christina Ramon and Michael Tran.

Women have likewise seen little improvement in Hollywood representation, according to the report. "They suffered losses in eight of the 11 arenas examined and merely treaded water in the other three," the report noted.

The UCLA report arrives at a fraught moment, just days before Sunday's Academy Awards telecast on ABC. The Oscars have already been ensnared in international controversy over the lack of minorities nominated in the performance categories, with some celebrities including Will Smith and Spike Lee vowing to boycott the ceremony.

A USC study released earlier this month also faulted the movie and TV industries, calling Hollywood "whitewashed" and saying minorities in the media suffered an "epidemic of invisibility."

The UCLA report - the third in recent years - looked at 163 theatrical films released in 2014 as well as 1,146 TV shows on broadcast and cable networks, in syndication and on 10 digital platforms.

Among the more notable findings from the report:

- The proportion of minority leads in feature films actually decreased from 2013 (from 16.7% to 12.9%), which was hailed by some as a "breakout year for black film."

- Despite all the attention given to "Scandal" producer Shonda Rhimes, an African American writer and one of the most powerful people in TV, minorities are still underrepresented among creators of broadcast scripted TV series by a factor of 11 to 1.

- Some of the most dramatic underrepresentation comes for women film directors, who are underrepresented compared with men by a factor of 12 to 1. (Only one woman, Kathryn Bigelow, has won an Oscar for feature directing.)

For more info on the report, head here.

Twitter: @scottcollinsLAT

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