July 27, 2009 / 2:45 PM / in 10 years

Study finds HBO No. 1 network for gay-friendly fare

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - HBO tops the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s third annual Network Responsibility Index, a study that evaluates the quantity, quality and diversity of images of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people on television.

Among the five broadcast and 10 of the highest-rated cable networks, once again none earned the top “excellent” ranking, with five, including NBC and CBS, getting a “failing” grade.

Four networks were rated “good,” led by HBO with 42 percent representation of LGBT characters, a 16 percent increase from last year. Virtually all non-sports original HBO series included LGBT content, with shows such as “True Blood” and “The No. 1 Lades Detective Agency” lauded for featuring “complex and authentic LGBT characters from diverse backgrounds.”

Also singled out in the report is ABC’s drama “Brothers & Sisters,” which features three gay characters among its regular cast, as well as the network’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” which has a bisexual woman among the leads.

Overall, “GLAAD analysts found that ABC consistently offers the most fair, accurate and inclusive representations of the five broadcast networks,” the survey said.

With its comedy “Modern Family,” ABC also boasts two of the most prominent gay characters on a new fall series.

The CW is once again No. 2 among the broadcasters, mostly thanks to “America’s Next Top Model,” whose seventh cycle featured transgender and bisexual contestants.

GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS

Fox significantly increased its LGBT representation, from 4 percent to 11 percent, and improved its grade from “failing” to “adequate,” mostly because of bisexual characters on “House” and “Bones.” The network’s comedy-drama series “Glee,” which premiered in May, “shows excellent promise” with its gay characters, the study said. But GLAAD also noted that Fox’s tally includes some “problematic LGBT content,” including what it qualifies as a “homophobic critique” on “So You Think You Can Dance” by judge Nigel Lythgow and an “offensive” gay-themed episode of “Family Guy.”

TNT posted the biggest overall rise, from a single hour (1 percent) of content last year to 19 percent, improving its “failing” grade to “adequate,” mostly because of a regular character on “Raising the Bar.”

NBC showed a small increase in LGBT representation (from 6 percent to 8 percent) but still earned a “failing” grade. In addition to a regular character on midseason drama “Southland,” which is returning this fall, the network is adding a lesbian storyline to flagship drama “Heroes” next season.

CBS saw the greatest decline among the broadcast networks, dropping to last place among them with 5 percent LGBT depiction, with the bulk of it, 72 percent, on unscripted series such as “The Amazing Race” and “Survivor.”

Overall, FX, last year’s leader, posted the biggest decline, 32 percent, of LGBT-inclusive content.

A&E, Syfy (formerly Sci Fi) and TBS received grades of “failing.” Syfy is prepping two new series with lead LGBT characters, “Caprica” and “Stargate Universe.”

“Overall, we saw positive signs in the inclusion of LGBT characters on television,” said Rashad Robinson, senior director of media programs at GLAAD. “ABC continues to do well, HBO is stepping up in diversity, and we hope that CBS and NBC will be able to better reflect the American scenes on their shows.”

All networks with “failing” grades declined to comment.

Editing by SheriLinden at Reuters

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