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Congressional research arm to probe Latino employment trends in entertainment industry

Justina Machado and Rita Moreno in the Netflix reboot of the sitcom "One Day at a Time."
Justina Machado, left, played a single mother of two, with Rita Moreno as her mother, in the Netflix reboot of “One Day at a Time.”
(Michael Yarish / Netflix)

Congress’ watchdog agency will study Latino representation and hiring in the film, television and publishing industries.

Prompted by the House Oversight Committee and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Government Accountability Office agreed this week to study Latino hiring in entertainment industries, representation in management and the enforcement of federal equal opportunity laws and regulations by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Labor.

“It’s going to take a look at the whole ecosystem: the studios, the talent agencies, the guilds, everyone,” caucus Chairman Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) said. “I think it will be a very vast but also very in-depth uncovering of Hollywood and what is going on.”

The representatives asked the watchdog agency to compile a breakdown, by position, of Latinos working in the film, television and publishing industries, including their representation in talent agencies, unions and guilds. They also asked for data regarding the number of projects involving Latino writers, lead actors, showrunners, producers and directors, as well as figures on Latino editors and authors in the publishing industry.

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The GAO study, which will probably take months to complete, comes during a renewed push to make the nation’s entertainment offerings more accurately represent its population. Last week, 270 showrunners, creators, television and film writers released an open letter calling for systemic change in the entertainment industry.

A 2019 study by the USC Annenberg Inclusion Initiative found that among 1,200 popular films released between 2007 and 2018 , just 4.5% of more than 47,000 speaking or named roles went to Latino actors. Only 3% were lead or co-leads. Just 4% were made by Latino directors. Of those, 71% hailed from outside the U.S. and 29% were American. Only one director was Latina.

Latinos make up nearly 18% of the U.S. population.

Castro said Congress will use the study’s recommendations to determine whether existing federal employment laws are being followed and whether new legislation or regulations are needed.

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Castro noted that the caucus has begun speaking with state legislators across the country about tax breaks offered to the film and television industries. If the report shows substantial underrepresentation of Latinos, he said those tax breaks could come under review.

“If we go by the numbers, right now a lot of states are subsidizing exclusion, and maybe the federal government is subsidizing exclusion,” Castro said. “And many of us are uncomfortable subsidizing our own exclusion.”


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