The annual diversity reports from the National Latino Media Council and the Asian Pacific American Media Coalition are out - apparently these grade the efforts of ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox towards presenting a more visible Latino/Asian Pacific presence. An excerpt :

The four biggest broadcast networks received passing grades Thursday from two media watchdog groups for promoting diversity, but ABC was placed at the head of the class for increasing Latino presence both on-screen and behind the camera.

ABC is the only network with Latinos as title characters in two separate shows: "The George Lopez Show" and "Freddie" starring Freddie Prinze Jr. Additionally, top-rated "Desperate Housewives" has Latina actress Eva Longoria as one of its five principals and all three shows have additional Latino cast members.

In addition:

"Achieving true diversity across the entire network both in front of and behind the camera is a high priority for us and we appreciate the acknowledgment of our effort by both the (NLMC) and the (APAMC)," Robert Mendez, senior vice president of diversity for the Disney-ABC Television Group, said in a statement. "That said, while we have made significant strides in certain areas, we fully recognize that we still have more work to do."

All well and good but what's the real incentive here? Surprise, it's good for business!

In the push for diversity in television -- the campaign to add people of color to key positions on both sides of the camera -- it's not the beauty of the rainbow that ultimately brings the big networks around.

It's the promise of a pot of gold.


Not the least of those reasons, however, is that dinero talks.

``The genesis is good business,'' said Stephen McPherson, president of ABC Entertainment. ``We're a broadcast network, and you look at the multicultural nature of this country these days and I think you would be making a big mistake as a broadcaster to not recognize that and program for it.''

With the fight for viewers ever-more competitive, thanks to the growing number of entertainment options, ABC has identified U.S. Latinos, a population more than 40 million strong, as a target of opportunity, even if almost half their number watch mainly Spanish-language TV.
This has fueled a run on Latino talent in a bid to better reflect the world that would-be viewers actually live in. Or the world in which they wish they lived.

That's part of why Jimmy Smits is a would-be presidential successor to Martin Sheen on NBC's ``The West Wing,'' and why Benjamin Bratt stars on the Pentagon series ``E-Ring.'' It's also part of why Fox's ``24'' has Carlos Bernard and ``That '70s Show'' has Wilmer Valderrama.

Extend similar logic to the global Indian market and now you can finally see why Aishwarya Rai is suddenly winning awards for diversity. Hollywood-wallahs want to extend their audience. Financial clout aside, Indians in the US by themselves are too small in numbers which is probably why the one desi Naveen Andrews on the much ballyhooed "Lost" plays an Iraqi! Talk about covering as a big a base (Indian-American, Arab-American ..) as possible! But our numbers worldwide add up. Consequently, it can be argued that Ms. Rai's worldwide "bringing India to Hollywood" campaign, is really intended to set her up as a person who can bring Hollywood to India i.e. deliver an Indian audience for Hollywood products.

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- December 7, 2005 12:02 AM // TV