Latino groups raise an issue with KNBC, and NBC's fall schedule shows a reversal from characters' ethnic diversity last season.
By Greg Braxton
But little more than six months after the approval of the merger by the Federal Communications Commission, and three months after Madison retired, some of NBCUniversal's units have come under fire as advocates claim that the company is not honoring promises that helped pave the way for the merger's approval.
KNBC Channel 4, NBCUniversal's Los Angeles station, has been targeted by two Latino journalist groups who say the newsroom is discriminating against Latino anchors. And NBC's upcoming fall schedule shows a marked reversal from last season, when the merger was still pending and the network developed "Undercovers" as well as other shows with minorities in major roles, such as "Outlaw," "The Event" and "Outsourced." Those series were all casualties of low ratings, and the new pilots show few people of color in leading roles.
NBC is not the only network struggling with the issue this season; new shows on rival networks feature few people of color in prominent roles. CBS has only one person of color in its new fall lineup, Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson ("The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"), playing a supporting role on "Person of Interest." Fox and ABC fare slightly better: Shelley Conn stars in Fox's "Terra Nova" while ABC's revamp of "Charlie's Angels" stars Annie Ilonzeh, an African American actress, as one of the Angels, while their protector Bosley is played by Ramon Rodriguez.
For working actors of color, more diversity on network television means more jobs. More diversity in lead roles means more awesome jobs. But to convince the network executives who make programming decisions that diversity is a more worthwhile goal than they apparently think it is, advocates must hammer away at the notion that in order to reach a more diverse America, the networks must present a more diverse face. AFTRA, the Screen Actors Guild, and others have already been making that argument for some time now. Sadly, it looks like they’ll need to make it again come pilot season 2012.
For more on the subject, see Tyler Blackburn in The New World and Asian Indian Cast as Navajo.
Below: Boris Kodjoe as Steven Bloom and Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Samantha Bloom in the short-lived show "Undercovers." (Frank Ockenfels/NBC)