Latinos are the largest minority group in the United States yet they make up only 4 percent of regular prime-time characters on network television, according to a new study by UCLA's Chicano Studies Research Center.
"Looking for Latino Regulars on Prime-Time Television: The Fall 2002 Season" also revealed that more than one-third of prime-time television series have no minorities as regular characters, or minority regular characters. Minority regular characters are concentrated on relatively few shows and within only a few genres, according to the analysis. Nearly nine out of 10 series have no Latino regular characters, the study showed.
"The Latino population is now the largest minority group in the United States, accounting for 13 percent of the national population," wrote Alison Hoffman, the study's author and a research assistant in the Chicano studies center. "Its proportion in the Western United States is even more dramatic, nearly one-third of California and the plurality of Los Angeles. Yet, while located in L.A., prime-time television turns its cameras away from the city's largest ethnic/racial group and presents a fictional world without Latinos."
The study was conducted from October to December 2002 and focused on the top 10 genres on television; it found that Latino regular characters or hosts are missing from six of the top 10 genres. These genres are sketch/variety, animation, teen, medical, news and reality.
"Shockingly, Latino characters are missing from both ends of the programming spectrum - nonfiction series and the make-believe world of cartoons," said center director Chon Noriega. "In other words, television fails to include Latinos in either its documentary function or its vision of our collective fantasies. That is bound to have an impact on how Latinos are perceived."
Latinos make up 7 percent of regular characters in the situation-comedies genre, or the highest percentage of any genre, the analysis showed. Two Latino-themed shows - "The George Lopez Show" and "Greetings From Tucson" - accounted for less than 2 percent of the total prime-time series in the fall 2002 line-up; yet, these two situation comedies account for 44 percent of Latino characters on all prime-time television. A cancellation of one of these shows would almost erase Latinos from the genre and from prime-time television, Hoffman wrote.
Latinos account for 6 percent of regular characters on the police-crime-detective genre, the study showed. Nevertheless, Hoffman noted that while the multiracial casts of this genre may seem promising, police-crime-detective shows remain centered on white people, both in theme and cast.
"Given that the majority of the shows are set in large U.S. cities where whites are becoming the minority, including Los Angeles, the low number of minority regular characters in this genre is a conspicuous failure to reflect current realities," Hoffman wrote.
The study is the first of the center's research report series, which will make available timely research findings on the Chicano and Latino communities. The Research Report provides a more in-depth and extensive format than the center's Latino Policy and Issues Briefs, and a quicker turn-around time than academic journals.
VIEW "Looking for Latino Regulars on Prime-Time Television: The Fall 2002 Season"
The report is also available on the Web at: www.sscnet.ucla.edu/csrc
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