USC Annenberg report card will grade the entertainment industry on representation – or lack of it

LOS ANGELES, Jan. 21, 2015 — The Academy Award nominations for the 2015 Oscars were blasted for their lack of diversity.

But excluding women and underrepresented racial/ethnic groups is a hallmark of Hollywood – not an oversight. This year’s snubs didn’t surprise researchers at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, who since 2006 have chronicled the lack of diversity behind and in front of the camera.

USC Annenberg today is launching a new initiative to enhance diversity across the entertainment industry.

The project will rate and reward media companies based on how inclusive they are. The ratings will study the content media companies produce – and also the diversity within their internal ranks. The USC Annenberg Comprehensive Analysis and Report on Diversity (CARD) will serve as Hollywood’s diversity “report card,” charting how the major entertainment players fare when it comes to hiring, casting and content.

USC Annenberg researchers will catalog the chain of command at major media companies to examine diversity in executive suite decision-making. In addition, several aspects of on-screen diversity across film, TV, and digital content – such as gender, race/ethnicity, and LGBT representation – will be assessed and graded.

The Media, Diversity & Social Change (MDSC) Initiative at USC Annenberg, led by Professor Stacy L. Smith, will oversee the analyses for the USC Annenberg CARD. The MDSC Initiative is a think tank of research scientists and more than 100 graduate and undergraduate students. The group conducts yearly studies of diversity across media content.

MDSC Initiative research has revealed that less than one-third of all speaking characters in popular films were female, despite girls and women representing half of the population. This statistic has not changed in decades.

“In 2013, there were 17 films among the top 100 grossing movies that featured not one black or African-American speaking character. Across 600 popular films between 2007 and 2013, just two were directed by black women,” said Professor Smith, director of the MDSC Initiative.

“Clearly, not one group or one company is solely responsible for the lack of diversity on-screen or behind the camera. We need a broader look at who is doing well, and who needs to step up their game. The USC Annenberg CARD will do just that,” Smith said.

In addition to scoring companies based on the criteria listed above, USC Annenberg will seek out nominations for individuals who have meaningfully contributed as leaders to diversity in entertainment. These individuals will be honored with an award in early 2016.

The USC Annenberg CARD builds on the school’s commitment to diversity and entertainment. USC Annenberg is home, for example, to the new Institute for Diversity and Empowerment at Annenberg (IDEA), a research center examining inclusivity across media industries. IDEA’s goal is to make positive, long-lasting change and facilitate civic engagement.

“The mission of this new institute and report card is integrated into everything we do,” said USC Annenberg Dean Ernest J. Wilson III. “This is not a sidebar; this is core to our school’s vision.”

To cite just a few examples: USC Annenberg is the recipient of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC)’s Equity and Diversity Award, in 2012. That same year, at the request of the Federal Communications Commission, USC Annenberg convened a national consortium of 30 social scientists, legal scholars, journalists and communication experts to examine media ownership rules and their effect on localism and diversity. And last year, the Women’s Leadership Society at Annenberg M{2e} [Or, Media, Economics and Entrepreneurship] formed with the aim of disrupting the male-dominated media and entertainment industries and building new opportunities for the future generation of thought leaders.

About the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

Located in Los Angeles at the University of Southern California, the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism is a national leader in education and scholarship in the fields of communication, journalism, public diplomacy and public relations. With an enrollment of more than 2,200 students, USC Annenberg offers doctoral, graduate and undergraduate degree programs, as well as continuing development programs for working professionals, across a broad scope of academic inquiry. The school’s comprehensive curriculum emphasizes the core skills of leadership, innovation, service and entrepreneurship and draws upon the resources of a networked university in a global urban environment.

Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

University of Southern California