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TV networks refuse to meet as Asian Am representation falls

The annual report card on Asian American Pacific Islander representation shows a decline in AAPI diversity with two networks receiving their lowest grades in 8 years-ABC and CBS.

The report card surveys the season beginning in September 2019 and ending in May 2020.

This year’s report card is from the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, a member of the just dissolved Asian Pacific American Media Coalition (APAMC). That coalition which previously had issued the report card broke up last month, but encouraged MANAA to continue to assign letter grades for each of the broadcast networks.

“People in our community are telling us how important it is for us to re-engage with the networks because it’s even more crucial to have them commit to creating TV series which humanize Asian/Pacific Islanders and make them relatable to viewers, to show how much in common we have with everyone so that we’re not so easily made targets whenever there are frictions between the United States and Asian countries,” said Robert Chan, president of MANAA.

MANAA requested a meeting with Fox, NBC, CBS and ABC in May, but it says so far none have agreed.

ABC, CBS and NBC creative execs last met with the media coalition in November 2019, according to MANAA. Fox last met in 2013.

“Increased violence against Asian Americans has gone on for over a year since the COVID-19 shutdown,” said Guy Aoki, MANAA’s founding president.  “The networks, streaming services, and movie studios must commit to amplifying the Asian American voice, so our fellow citizens understand that we too have had a history of struggle, that we have faced a different kind of racism for centuries.”

MANAA Graphic

ABC and CBS received overall grades of C+. That’s down from ABC’s grade the previous season of B and CBS B-.

Fox improved from a C- to a C while NBC remained flat with a C.

MANAA found ABC had just 11 API regulars, the lowest since 2011-2012. The sharp decline is largely due to the cancellation of Fresh Off the Boat and Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It’s worse mark came in development with a D+.

CBS had 17 API regulars, according to MANAA. That’s down from 20 the season before. CBS tied with ABC for the best Directors (B+) and Commitment To Diversity grades (B+).  It got sent to detention for the worst Diversity Department Relationship grade (F).

Fox featured just 4 API regular cast members. It’s unscripted series features both Ken Jeong and Nicole Scherzinger on The Masked Singer. The show is among the highest rated on all the networks.

Fox took top honors for Unscripted (B) and tied with NBC for Development (B).  It had the worst grades for Actors (C-), Writers/Producers (C-) and Commitment To Diversity (D+).

NBC tied with Fox for best Development grade (B) but got the lowest marks for Unscripted (C-) and Directors (C).

NBC featured 15 API regulars, up from 12. However, Sunnyside which debut with 5 Asian regulars, including Kal Penn, was among the first shows cancelled. Young Rock, which debut in the 2020-21 season show great potential for showcasing Pacific Islander talent.

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