A recent report from the Government Accounting Office (GAO) found Latinos continue to be underrepresented in the media business. Although Latinos now account for nearly 19% of the U.S. population, up from 15% in 2010, the GAO study found Latinos represent only 12% of the media workforce compared to 18% of the total workplace. Furthermore, Latinos account for an even lower 4% of media management positions. (Media workers include employment in television, film, news, etc. and includes such positions as actors, camera operators and journalists, etc.)
While the Latino population continues to increase at a higher rate than the overall U.S. population, GAO noted little progress of Latinos employed in the media industry. Hispanic employment growth in the media workplace has been negligible, increasing from 11% in 2010 to 12% in 2019. (Latinos in the total workforce grew from 15% to 18%.) The GAO findings were announced by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) at the National Press Club. In his remarks Castro noted of his childhood in Texas, “The faces and the places that I saw on screen back then, and really since then, hardly ever matched the reality around me on the West Side of San Antonio.”
Rep. Castro added, “Latino representation in American media isn’t much better than it was back then.” Castro along with several other lawmakers had been pushing Congress to look at the diversity in the media industry.
In commenting about the study, Sonia Pérez, the CEO of UnidosUS, a not-for-profit organization said, “It’s distressing that we are still talking about this issue of Hispanic media underrepresentation.” For example, the Latino Donor Collaborative found in modern mainstream entertainment Latinos accounted for only 3.1% of all lead actors in modern mainstream entertainment – with even lower numbers for co-leads/ensemble actors (2.1%), showrunners (1.5%), and directors (1.3%).
Despite the lack of diversity, the MPA reports Latinos have historically gone to the movie theaters more often than any other ethnic segment. Nielsen reports as a viewing source Latinos spend more time with streaming video than any other ethnic group. In addition, Spotify notes that 11 of 20 most streamed songs this summer came from Latino artists.
The GAO report said Latino females were even more underrepresented than males. Below is a breakout of media subsections.
- All media occupations: 10% (7% men, 3% women)
- Television, video, and film camera operators and editors: 14% (11% men, 3% women)
- Other media and communication equipment workers: 13% (12% men, 1% women)
- Designers: 13% (11% men, 2% women)
- Photographers: 12% (10% men, 2% women)
- Broadcast announcers and radio disc jockeys: 12% (8% men, 4% women)
- Artists and related workers: 11% (7% men, 4% women)
- Producers and directors: 11% (7% men, 4% women)
- Actors: 11% (7% men, 4% women)
- News analysts, reports, and journalists: 11% (5% men, 6% women)
- Graphic designers: 10% (8% men, 2% women)
- Editors: 7% (4% men, 3% women)
- Writers and authors: 7% (3% men, 4% women)
The report noted the challenges Latinos face in entering the media workplace including unions, lack of diversity with talent agents, a lack of diversity in decision makers (e.g., executives), financial obstacles, difficulty to network, difficulty to join a union and education.
The GAO issued some recommendations to improve ethnic diversity in the media industry including:
- The Chair of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) work with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to develop a new memorandum of understanding that includes a plan for EEOC to routinely share data with FCC regarding discrimination charges filed against broadcasters and cable and satellite television operators.
- The Chair of EEOC should improve EEOC’s approach to routinely identify local unions required to file an EEO-3 report to help ensure that they file such reports on the demographics of union members.
Despite a growing and youthful population, an annual buying power approaching $2 trillion, a GDP that would be the fifth largest economy in the world, they are largely ignored. Rep. Castro noted, “Our stories remain almost entirely missing from the American narrative.”
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