Asians on TV: Do Networks Make the Grade?

Asian Pacific American Media Coalition releases annual diversity Report Card; Fox gets an "F."

Every year, the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (APAMC) issues "report cards" to the top four television networks grading their progress toward diversity and inclusion of Asian Americans on the air and behind the scenes. This year's report card, evaluating the past 2017-18 season, gives ABC high marks, while Fox gets a failing grade of "F." And you know when it comes to grades, Asians are not messing around.

Since APAMC began meeting with the networks in 1999 to advocate for greater diversity and inclusion of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, there have been gradual (though inconsistent) increases in the number of Asian Americans represented in the categories of Actors (regular and recurring roles in prime time), Unscripted (host/judges and contestants), Writers/Producers, Directors, and Program Development.

This year, they've added a separate grade for each network on its Diversity Department's Relationship with the APAMC, which previously had been included within the "Commitment to Diversity" category. This takes into account the APAMC's dealings with each network's Diversity department as well as the timeliness and quality of data the network provides. I guess you don't add a category like this if your dealings are going particularly well.

Here's the report card for the four networks:

Here's some explanation for the grades, according to the APAMC:

ABC. On the strength of its 24 API regulars (another historic high for all networks, 10.9% of all ABC regulars) and 27 API recurring (7.7%) actors in primetime television (up from 21 and 23, respectively), ABC once again scored an A- for Scripted Talent, which continues to be the highest grade the Coalition has ever given in that category. ABC also led the networks in the categories of Writers/Producers, Commitment to Diversity Initiatives (its Pipeline Programs include a new writers’ database, training intensives for writers and directors, and a Creative Talent Session to update interested parties on the network’s diversity efforts and to brainstorm how to better achieve them), and Diversity Relations.

However, ABC continues to receive a C for Unscripted Talent as that has remained fairly low and stagnant from the prior season, and its C+ grade in the Development category was lower than that for both CBS and NBC. This resulted in ABC receiving an overall grade of B, matching its grade for the prior season. It still remains the highest ever overall grade awarded to a network since APAMC began assessing the networks’ progress some 17 television seasons ago (NBC also received a B for the 2010-11 season).

CBS. The number of API regulars rose from 16 to 21 (9.9% of all CBS regulars), but because many of them receive minimal screen time, their grade remained a B-. The network significantly improved in hiring more unique API directors (8 to 18; 3.5% to 8% of all CBS directors) to handle more episodes (18 to 37; 5% to 7%). So, their grade improves from B to B+, the highest of all networks on this metric. CBS also took top honors for Development (though sliding from a B+ to a B). CBS' Writers/Producers increased from 15 to 17 (5.4%) improving from a C to a C+ but that still places last among the networks (other than Fox). CBS also received the worst Unscripted grade, sliding from C to C-. They were graded a B for Commitment to Diversity Initiatives and for Diversity Department Relations. Overall, the network receives B- for the 2017-2018 season, which is the same score it received for the 2016-2017 season.

NBC. Though the number of API regulars held at 11 (6.3%), the number of recurring actors was almost cut in half (26 to 12; 8.8% to 4.7%), so NBC’s Scripted grade fell from C+ to C. The network continued to slip in Unscripted API inclusion (C+ to C), as the number in the main cast (hosts, judges, or celebrity contestants) dropped to 3 (from 8 in the prior season), and the network continues to not provide data on non-celebrity contestants for its reality/competition shows. API Writers/Producers improved slightly from 20 (6%) to 21 (6.4%)—going from C+ to B-- because the series “Champions” boasted Mindy Kaling as its showrunner (the “holy grail” of producers). Nine APIs directed 10 (3%) episodes, down from 8 and 18 (5%) in the 2016-2017 season, which led to its Directors grade slipping from B- to C. Due in part to APIs in the Diverse Staff Writers Initiative dropping markedly from 45% to 18%, NBC's Commitment to the Diversity initiatives grade fell from B+ to B-. Overall, NBC dips from a C+ to a C, the lowest of the three networks that provided us with data.

FOX. For the 2017-18 season, Fox has once again failed to comply with its obligations under the MOU it signed with the members of the multi-ethnic media coalition (which includes the APAMC), by providing no data measuring its progress toward diversity goals. Fox has failed to provide complete diversity data to the Coalition since 2013. As a result, Fox has once again received an F/Incomplete grade in all categories. The Coalition hopes that with its new team in place in a restructured Fox Broadcasting Network, Fox will soon come into compliance with its obligations and take decisive steps to increase the inclusion of APIs on the network.

The numbers don't lie. And like I said, when it comes to grades, Asians do not mess around.

Download the full report card here.

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