Major TV networks just received scores on the inclusion of individuals of Asian descent.
The Asian Pacific American Media Coalition released its annual report card last week, scoring ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC on their progress toward diversity and inclusion of Asian Americans in the 2017-2018 season. And, yet again, Fox did not provide diversity data to the APAMC, leading to the network receiving a grade of F/Incomplete.
While the report did not reveal dramatic progress from the year prior overall, APAMC Chair Daniel Mayeda told HuffPost that the landscape has evolved quite a bit since the coalition began assessing the networks.
“The arc of progress from 1999 to 2019 is dramatic,” he explained. “There are now multiple shows on network TV that have [Asian Pacific Islander] characters as the stars, co-stars or playing crucial roles in telling the story.
He added that there’s also a growing number of API writers, producers and directors who are “in a position to advance API-themed shows or at least know how to include and depict API actors in non-stereotypical roles.”
The report evaluated the networks on representation among regular and recurring actors, hosts and contestants of unscripted shows, writers and producers, directors, development, commitment to diversity, and the relationship the networks’ diversity departments have with the coalition.
Fox earned the lowest score because it did not provide any data to help measure progress toward diversity goals despite signing an agreement in the past to provide such information. The network has not shared complete diversity data with APAMC since 2013, the report notes.
Two networks ― ABC, which received an overall B grade, and CBS, which earned an overall B-minus ― maintained the scores they got last season. Mayeda noted that the two networks did, in fact, experience an uptick in representation in the category of regular and recurring roles for actors in scripted shows.
The report added that ABC still needs work in the area of unscripted talent, where it received a C. And when it came to the development category, the network received a low score. CBS also struggled in unscripted shows, earning the lowest score in the category with a C-minus.
NBC was given a C score, a slight dip from the year before, as the number of recurring API actors was almost halved and the network continued to slip when it came to the category of unscripted shows.
“The reason why the grades overall did not rise is that every year, the Coalition demands progress,” Mayeda said, explaining that staying flat results in a network’s grade slipping.
We view our role as trying to hold them accountable with numbers, sure, but also to partner with them to introduce them to API talent, to work with them to promote and build audiences for projects that do include us, and to advocate for specific ways they can do better. Daniel Mayeda, APAMC chair
The APAMC chair is optimistic, though. Citing shows like ABC’s summer crime drama “Reef Break,” starring Chinese Australian actor Desmond Chiam; NBC pilot “Triangle,” featuring Pallavi Sharda and Amit Shah; and CBS pilot The “Emperor of Malibu,” starring Ken Jeong and other Asian and Pacific Islander actors, Mayeda said he knows networks have been developing pilots with notable representation. He added that cable and streaming companies also have many shows featuring Asian Americans in the works, such as Netflix’s “Cowboy Bebop” starring John Cho and Hulu series “Dollface” starring Shay Mitchell and Brenda Song.
“It is a good time to be an Asian American actor and consumer, too,” Mayeda said.
Mayeda added that the industry is no longer resistant to diversity and the coalition’s function has shifted over time. In the early days, “there were some network executives who did not understand the issue, who thought they were the experts and we didn’t know what we were talking about, that perceived us as simply trying to pressure them to make changes for social justice reasons,” he reflected.
But nowadays, the coalition does not have to persuade executives that diversity benefits all, as it also brings in profit for networks.
“We view our role as trying to hold them accountable with numbers, sure, but also to partner with them to introduce them to API talent, to work with them to promote and build audiences for projects that do include us, and to advocate for specific ways they can do better,” he explained.
Mayeda said he felt “Crazy Rich Asians” did have a significant impact on the entertainment industry, giving those involved a springboard for further opportunities. He pointed out that virtually every actor in the flick has been offered new roles since the movie premiered. What’s more, many projects with actors of Asian descent who weren’t involved in the movie were greenlit and pilots were bought.
“The real test will be whether these projects are actually completed and released, whether pilots are picked up to series,” he said. “And, then, as projects inevitably fail (don’t make it on the air or do poorly in ratings or at the box office), will we be allowed to fail and have Hollywood keep trying?”
“After all,” he added, “it is a routine occurrence that all-white or predominately all-white TV shows fail and no one ever says, ‘We shouldn’t do another all-white show.’”