Television shows

TV shows may seem more diverse, but the representation still lacks quality

Hollywood and the entertainment industry still have work to do to cultivate a more diverse and inclusive environment on and off screen.

Representations of characters across identity and sexuality groups have improved, but in Nielsen’s latest report “Being seen on screen: a diverse representation & Inclusion on TV, “the Global TV ratings and media research group reveals another factor that critically weighs the importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in the television industry – the quality of representation.


Listen to: Nielsen Stacie M. de Armas discusses the intersection of quality visibility, representation and inclusive narratives in media:


At the heart of Nielsen’s report is an analytical assessment from a talent perspective. Going beyond the surface of character representations, Nielsen sought to understand who is projected on the screen, how this visibility is reflected in the importance of the representation and who consumes the content. The study deploys the distinction between screen presence and representation; the two are not one and the same.

Courtesy of Nielsen

Stacie M. de Armas is Nielsen’s Senior Vice President for Various Consumer Information.

Presence is not the same as quality ”, says Stacie M. de Armas, senior vice president of Nielsen for various consumer information. “A show can have a variety of cast and storylines, but if it’s not consumed by audiences of that same band, then (what does that) say about the portrayal of that particular band? Visibility is just one layer. What we really need to look at is quality and authenticity. Those who are married with visibility are what gives you good representation.


Key takeaways from Nielsen’s “Being Seen on Screen” report:

  • Through TV landscape, among the 300 most watched programs in 2019 (broadcast, cable and streaming), 92% of all the programs measured show some diversity (women, people of color or LGBTQ+ characters) in their recurring distribution
  • Women represent 52% of our population but they only have 38% screen share
  • Streaming and broadcasting are among the most inclusive sources for portraying people of color
  • View full report

And a good representation, according to de Armas, contributes to his ability to see the possibility of who they can become.

On whom we see TV is very important, but the context in which we see these people is just as important, ”she says. “It really gives us permission, for many members of society, who we can dream of being.”

She adds: “There are basically themes alongside the content, so that we can understand when there is a strong presence of specific identity groups and what types of themes that strong presence is associated with. It helps us understand the context in which the character is presented – whether or not he is stereotypical and how there maybe is an opportunity for growth. “


Related: Pop culture is wrong about mental illness. Here’s how to change the narrative.

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