ABC Family gets top score in GLAAD survey of gays on TV
ABC Family stands at the head of the class in a new report looking at depictions of gay, lesbians and transgender people on television.
In its fifth annual Network Responsibility Index, the advocacy group Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) assessed the quality and quantity of gay characters on the broadcast networks plus 10 cable channels from June 2010 to the end of May.
The top score went to the Walt Disney Co.'s cable outlet ABC Family, which is targeted at viewers 14 to 34 and features several series with gay characters, including "Pretty Little Liars" and "Greek." CW earned the best score among any broadcaster, thanks to openly gay characters on shows such as "90210" and "Gossip Girl."
"We're incredibly proud to be acknowledged by GLAAD," ABC Family President Michael Riley said in an interview. "We want to be sure we program in a relatable, authentic way."
GLAAD gave failing grades to cable outlets A&E and TBS. The group pointed out that most of what very little gay inclusiveness A&E could claim stemmed from the fact that Ryan Buell, the host of "Paranormal State," came out as bisexual.
"Often inclusion of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) characters is a matter of will," said Herndon Graddick, senior director of programs at GLAAD. "It’s really something we’re going to be addressing with both of those networks."
Representatives for A&E and TBS did not respond to emails requesting comment.
Other networks that have been flunked by GLAAD in the past – including CBS and USA – have risen to "adequate" in the new report. CBS' drama "The Good Wife" includes a bisexual investigator played by Archie Panjabi, who won an Emmy for the role.
GLAAD representatives say that representations of gays and lesbians on TV shows is important because the medium helps shape Americans' perceptions. More than one-third of people who reported viewing gays more favorably over the past five years in a recent GLAAD poll said that "seeing gay or lesbian characters" on TV was a contributing factor.
The group also pointed to the immense buying power of gays and lesbians, estimated at $835 billion in 2011.
One area of concern for GLAAD: the continuing lack of transgender characters on television. With a few exceptions – such as model Isis King on CW's "America's Next Top Model" – transgender people are seldom seen in programming.
Graddick said that transgender depictions on TV are lagging 20 years behind those of gays and lesbians.
-- Scott Collins
Photo: Shay Mitchell (center) plays a lesbian on ABC Family's "Pretty Little Liars." Credit: Adam Rose/ABC Family.