‘ABC Family’ Shines in GLAAD Annual LGBT TV Survey; ‘A&E’ and ‘TBS’ Receive Failing Grades

ABC Family became the second network, cable or broadcast, to receive an "Excellent" rating in GLAAD's annual Network Repsponsibility Index, which evaluates the quality, quantity, and diversity of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people on television. The only other network to receive the rating is MTV, last year.

(below, ABC Family's show Pretty Little Liars, which features a lesbian character – Shay Mitchell, second from right)

Pll Other key findings:

Compared to last year's NRI, GLAAD has found that the five major broadcast networks have all remained relatively steady in the percentage of LGBT-inclusive hours found in their primetime programming.  There has been no change in their rankings relative to one another based on these figures, though The CW, Fox, and ABC all experienced slight declines, while NBC and CBS both experienced slight increases.  ABC saw the greatest decline at -3%, while CBS saw greatest increase at +3%.

For the second year in a row, The CW is the top broadcast network in this report with 171 (33%) LGBT-inclusive hours out of 521 total hours of original programming. Last year, The CW reached 35% LGBT-inclusive hours, which remains the highest percentage ever recorded for a broadcast network since this report's inception. The CW's programming also reflected the second greatest racial/ethnic diversity among its LGBT impressions of all the broadcast networks.

Once again, ABC had to settle for third place behind The CW and Fox in terms of the percentage of its LGBT-inclusive primetime hours. However, ABC led all the broadcast networks in total hours of LGBT inclusion. Of the 1108 total tracked hours of primetime programming, 253 (23%) included LGBT impressions.

For the third year in a row, CBS remains in last place among the broadcast networks. Since GLAAD began the NRI, CBS has demonstrated the least overall improvement over a five year period. This year however, it posted the largest gain of any network with a modest 3% increase; 114 (10%) LGBT-inclusive hours of programming out of 1110 hours total. Because of this, CBS' score was raised from "Failing" to "Adequate."

Showtime made a stronger showing this year with 35.5 (37%) LGBT-inclusive hours out of 96.5 total. Though it didn't feature the most racially diverse range of impressions (85% white), it did include a strong showing for both lesbians (54%) and bisexuals (48%) in its LGBT-inclusive hours.

Another network that showed improvement was USA, which increased from 4% LGBT-inclusive hours to 18% thanks to the upgrading of Diana Berrigan on White Collar to regular status.  This improvement moves USA from a score of "Failing" to "Adequate."

A&E and TBS continue to reside at the bottom of our rankings and earn "Failing" grades with only 5% LGBT-inclusive programming hours each.  Those numbers are a slight improvement over the 2% and 1% they respectively posted in last year's NRI.

Said Michael Riley, President, ABC Family: “We’re proud of our programming, and grateful for the recognition from GLAAD. We strive to reflect the rich diversity of our audience and the world around us, including the LGBT community, through strong characters and engaging, authentic storytelling.  Earning GLAAD’s highest rating for our inclusive programming is both an honor and a validation of our programming’s positive impact.”

Download the full report HERE.


  1. GregV says

    I always find GLAAD’s annual analysis interesting, but I also always take issue with all kinds of problematic issues in the way they count and analyze.

    In regards to the racial makeup of LGBT TV characters, for example, they tell us that Fox, CBS and the CW network still have predominantly white LGBT characters (It’s 50% at the CW), though they have “improved” since last year.

    So how many white characters will be the “right” number? Zero?

    They also tell us that transgendered characters are the most grossly underrepresented at 1% of LGBT characters.

    But I don’t care so much what proportion of LGBT characters are transgendered. I care more what proportion of ALL characters are transgendered and whether they are being depicted fairly and accurately. (An example of a transgendered character given is a murdered prostitute. We should be aiming for more depictions beyond those kinds of sad stock characters).

    I also don’t care so much, for example, what proportion of gay male characters are Asian. I care more to make sure that an that the proportion of ALL characters that are gay male Asians is not grossly underrepresented.

    The answer isn’t to kill of gay male white characters (who are still underrepresented as a proportion of ALL characters on TV). The point they SHOULD be making is to not only have more gay, white male characters on TV but even a larger increase in gay black males, gay females, bisexual males, etc.

    Another issue that makes the numbers questionable is what counts as an “LGBT representation.”
    If I’m reading their analysis correctly, if a fictional character is gay, every time he/she comes on an another episode, it counts as “one impression,” whether he/she ever mentions anything relevant to being gay in that episode.

    But then if a real contestant or judge on a reality show is gay, she/he counts as one impression, whether it’s ever mentioned on that episode (or ANY episode) that he/she is gay.

    For example, Adam judging on So You Think You Can Dance counts as an impression, even if the audience might watch ten episodes and never have any idea that he’s gay.

    Likewise, there was a deaf gay man on The Amazing Race. They’ve counted him even though, if I remember correctly, CBS decided that he would be depicted as deaf (and not mentioned as being gay, since apparently being both deaf and gay might be confusing to America).

    In shows like these, I would rather that GLAAD count not whether someone happens to be gay in “real life,” (perhaps unknown to viewers) but, how many times that references to sexual orientation are same-sex oriented vs. opposite-sex oriented.

    For example, GLAAD could have counted how many times all male characters combined on the Amazing Race referred to “my wife/my girlfriend/my fiancee/she” vs. “my husband/my boyfriend/my fiance/he.”

    When the study doesn’t compare the numbers in this study to the numbers of LGBT people in the real America and doesn’t compare the number of hetero references to the number of gay references, it allows mainstream newspapers to erroneously claim (as they have in the past) that the GLAAD study proves that gays are already all over the dial on TV.

    When 1 out of 25 voters is an out gay/bi person (not including closeted gay voters) and yet CBS’ characters only run into or vaguely mention an LGBT person in 1 out of every 10 hours (during EACH of which viewers typically meet dozens of characters), I would not rate them as being “ADEQUATE” at all.

  2. Grover Underwood says

    one of the characters on “Nine Lives of Chloe King” has two dads; doubt we’ll ever see them but since it is set in San Francisco, maybe we’ll get a gay character

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