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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Fewer gay characters on TV this year: study

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LOS ANGELES -- Fewer gay and bisexual characters are part of the new broadcast TV season following a record-setting year, while cable depictions continued to increase, according to a new study from a media advocacy group.

GLAAD's 18th annual Where We Are on TV report released Friday says 3.3 per cent of 796 regularly appearing characters on prime-time broadcast dramas and comedies are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

Last season's study by GLAAD put LGBT depictions at 4.4 per cent.

Numbers are one thing, content is another, said GLAAD spokesman Wilson Cruz.

"Last season was a stellar one when it comes to the sheer number of gay, lesbian and bisexual representations on television, though diversity within those storylines showed room for improvement," Cruz said in a release.

Despite the decline this season, characters such as an interracial lesbian couple raising their children on ABC Family's The Fosters have "not only moved the conversation about LGBT people forward" but are popular with viewers, he said.

There are 46 LGBT regular and recurring characters on broadcast television, with half of them women and 28 per cent ethnic minorities, GLAAD said. One transgender character, Unique, is on Fox's Glee.

Two networks, ABC and Fox, showed increases this year and had the highest proportions of LGBT characters with 5.4 per cent each, the study found. The CW's 3 per cent put it in third place, followed by CBS with 1.9 per cent and NBC with 1 per cent.

On cable, scripted programs include 42 regularly seen LGBT characters, up from last season's 35.

HBO has the most LGBT characters with 11, followed by Showtime with eight.

Looking more broadly at broadcast TV diversity, the GLAAD study found a small decline in the percentage of female characters to 43 per cent from 45 per cent. Minority characters remained at 23 per cent, with one per cent of regular characters having a disability.

In a post-season assessment for the 2012-13 lineup, Fox was found to be the most inclusive broadcaster with LBGT images in 42 per cent of its prime-time programming hours, while ABC Family was the front-runner on cable with LBGT images in 50 per cent of its original programming.

The cable channel History lacked any LGBT images last season, GLAAD said.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 12, 2013 G2

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