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Public TV Documentaries Lead the Way on Racial Diversity

Public TV Documentaries Lead the Way on Racial Diversity

A new study from American University’s Center for Media and Social Impact (CMSI) finds that, in terms of diversity, public TV docs lead the way.

The study surveyed 61 documentaries from four television series in 2013: 23 from the public television series “Independent Lens,” 23 from HBO Documentaries, 6 from CNN Docs, and 9 from ESPN’s “30 for 30” series. Researchers compared the racial and gender diversities of directors, producers, lead characters, and subject matter.

READ MORE: Upcoming “Independent Lens” feature,”The Homestretch,” gets multi-platform release.

With “Independent Lens,” PBS led the way on racial diversity. 30% of its documentaries had at least one minority director, contrasted with HBO, whose documentaries had 13%. CNN and ESPN were at the bottom of the barrel, with 0% of documentaries having at least one minority director. In terms of minority producers, “Independent Lens” led the way once again with 26% of features having at least one minority producer. CNN had 17%, ESPN had 11%, and HBO had 9%. 83% of “Independent Lens” docs included at least one minority character, compared with 67% of ESPN’s, 26% of HBO’s, and 17% for CNN.
The study is less decisive when it comes to gender. “Independent Lens” had 35% of features with at least on female director, but HBO and CNN were much higher in this category — 52 and 50% respectively. 87% of “Independent Lens” docs had at least one female producer, compared with 83% for both HBO and CNN, and 11% for ESPN. 74% of “Independent Lens” docs featured at least one female character; HBO had 65%, CNN had 50%, and ESPN with a disappointing 0%.

Visit the study’s official page on CMSI’s website here.

READ MORE: Check out “Independent Lens’s” upcoming season, including “Bully,” in mid-October.

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