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Improved portrayal of gays and lesbians on TV


Eric Stonestreet, left, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson play a gay couple in the ABC television series ‘Modern Family.’

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LOS ANGELES — Broadcast networks have shown dramatic improvement in their depiction of gays, lesbians, and transgender characters in prime-time programming in the last year, according to a new study.

Gay rights organization GLAAD on Friday gave high marks to ABC Family, Fox Broadcasting, ABC, NBC, and CW for their inclusiveness and positive portrayal of gays, lesbians, and transgender characters on television.

The scores were given as part of GLAAD’s 7th Annual Network Responsibility Index.

ABC Family, the Walt Disney Co.-owned cable channel, ranked highest in GLAAD’s survey. The channel’s hit show Pretty Little Liars features a multiracial lesbian teenager as a lead character.

Viacom’s MTV and Showtime, owned by CBS Corp., also were applauded.

Among the broadcast networks, Fox showed the most improvement from the previous year, with 42 percent of its prime-time hours including LGBT impressions. Fox’s Glee and The Simpsons scored well, but unscripted programs, including MasterChef, X-Factor, So You Think You Can Dance, and even American Idol, generated the most LGBT impressions.

ABC, with hits Modern Family, Grey’s Anatomy, and Dancing With the Stars, which have prominent gay and lesbian characters, were also lauded. An estimated 33 percent of ABC’s prime-time hours were classified as LGBT inclusive.

NBC, which added shows with diverse characters, including the drama Chicago Fire and the since-canceled comedy The New Normal, improved its showing in the last year with 29 percent of its hours classified as inclusive.

The CW received a good score for The Carrie Diaries, which featured a closeted high school student named Walt, with 28 percent of its hours determined inclusive.

CBS trailed the other broadcast networks with 14 percent of its hours classified as inclusive, but it received a passing grade. Among scripted shows, The Good Wife was CBS’ star performer.

GLAAD’s Responsibility Index covered prime-time programming that ran from June, 2012, through May, 2013.

The organization credited TV programmers for their role in helping encourage a more accepting and tolerant society.

“Time and again it’s been shown that personally knowing an LGBT person is one of the most influential factors in shifting one’s views on LGBT issues,” the report said. “But in the absence of that, many viewers have first gotten to know us as television characters.”

Of the 46 LGBT regular and recurring characters on the broadcast networks, half were women and 28 percent were people of color, the study said.

The GLAAD study handed out two F grades this year to cable channels History and TBS.

Networks continue to grapple with representations of transgender people, GLAAD said, noting that there are plans for only one transgender character during the current season: Unique on Fox’s Glee.

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