December 06, 2010

Quotas needed for TV jobs?

Can Blacks Bum Rush The Show?:  Bringing Diversity to TV

By Patrice PeckUntil people of color, both in front of and behind the camera, can gain full access to the predominantly white boys club that is the television industry, demonstrating the potential profit and success of shows with lead people of color will be impossible; just as proving that students of color coming from disadvantaged backgrounds would not be able to demonstrate their academic qualifications without gaining full access to predominantly white institutions. So why not apply affirmative action to the television industry and allot a certain number of television shows to non-white racial groups so that the chance of the show, such as Undercovers, becoming a hit is greater than fifty-fifty?

If there were a required quota to fill for television lead actors, writers, and directors each season, then television executives would have to come to terms with the lack of diversity in television networks, and, in turn, be held accountable for the subsequent television line up. Of course, similar to the guidelines held in the education field, the quality of these shows would all be at the very least on par with the other shows vying for a prime time spot.

Yes, some shows might flop, but at least they’ll have the chance to flop just like every other show that manages to make it on to a major network. Also having the guaranteed spots would prompt writers and producers to take chances and create series that go beyond the stereotypical or appropriating content sometimes found in lasting series led by people of color. In order to ensure diversity in terms of content, behind the scenes roles such as producing, writing, and directing must also be included in this action and enforced at film schools and television companies across the nation through the admission, recruiting, and professional training process.

To be clear, we are not asking for handouts. In addition to bum rushing main stream television, the Black, Asian, Hispanic, and Native American communities should also establish distribution companies and studios, such as Tyler Perry, so that we retain full control of our resources, harness our consumer power, and make the most of the dynamic star power at our disposal. And while some may be swift to cry “reverse racism” or “prejudicial treatment,” affirmative action does not only benefit those at the lower end of the playing field. Adding an element of diversity to any situation, whether it be television casts or college campuses, does not only benefit the claimants of affirmative action, but every person in that environment as well. For how could a more tolerant, sensitive, and open environment possibly truly harm economic, and more importantly, social progress?
A comment on this proposal from Racialicious:Quotas? I can’t even imagine the would just fuel the assumption that any of the beneficiaries are “unqualified.”

How about something like the NFL’s Rooney Rule, which requires football teams with head coaching vacancies to at least interview a candidate of color? When the rule was first instituted, people thought it was the league’s efforts to pay lip service to diversity initiatives. (They may have been right.)

But an interesting thing has happened with the Rooney Rule: teams are now hiring black head coaches. It turns out that all these candidates needed was an opportunity to get their foot in the door. Their qualifications spoke for themselves, if they got the opportunity.

Could this work in television? Require the networks to at least LOOK at some shows featuring people of color? Could it work for auditions? Hires?
Comment:  This posting is related to what I've said many times: that American movies and TV shows should reflect America's demographics. If they don't, something's wrong, and a good candidate for the culprit is racism.

Before some conservative starts crying about government coercion, the studios and networks could adopt quotas voluntarily. Given how they're losing audiences to other forms of entertainment, it would be a smart move.

Or the government could require quotas as part of licensing broadcasters to use the public airwaves. For the major TV networks, at least, broadcasting is a privilege, not a right. If you don't like using a UHF channel with restrictions, you can go to cable or the Internet to exercise your First Amendment rights.

For more on the subject, see Indian TV and Film Center Flops and WGA Panel on Native Representation.

Below:  The failed TV show Undercovers.


dmarks said...

"For the major TV networks, at least, broadcasting is a privilege, not a right."

The courts tend to rule, and rightfully, so, that this is a right covered under the First Amendment.

Liberal Democrat Mario Cuomo said it best: ""Precisely because radio and TV have become our principal sources of news and information, we should award broadcasters the utmost freedom in order to insure a truly free press."

The free press is a right held by the people, not a privilege dripped down in crumbs at the whim of the ruling class.

"Or the government could require quotas as part of licensing broadcasters to use the public airwaves."

Which would be the government forcing people to be racist.

What the stations need to do is have less bias, not more.

Rob said...

Feel free to share your "free press" arguments with all the conservatives trying to hound Wikileaks out of existence. They've proved they don't understand or care about the First Amendment.

I was talking primarily about entertainment, not news, which is usually a separate division. So Cuomo's quote about "news and information" doesn't exactly apply.

Forcing TV shows to reflect the nation's demographics wouldn't be racist. It would be anti-racist since it would help eliminate the racism in the present system.

As I said, the ideal system would be voluntary. So your talk about rulings and requirements is mostly irrelevant.

dmarks said...

Good points on the conservatives' problems with Wikileaks. Shared with the Obama justice department.

" So Cuomo's quote about "news and information" doesn't exactly apply."

Well, the First Amendment does not exempt so-called "entertainment" from protection. So yes, freedom of artistic expression should apply too.

"Forcing TV shows to reflect the nation's demographics wouldn't be racist"

Actually, it is, if you are forcing them to hire and fire people due to skin color, instead of real qualifications.

Not by the content of their character, but by the color of their skin.

Adding more racism does not replace racism in the present system. Less racial bias is needed, not more.

"So your talk about rulings and requirements is mostly irrelevant."

You brought up the possible need for it, and even claimed that freedom of expression is a privilege, not a right (and thus subject to capricious controls by the ruling elites... welcome to North Korea).

Also, it could backfire. How many of those shows made, say, to meet some sort of quota could end up being more Dudeson's?. Real change should come from elsewhere, not a racist requirement.