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Report: Latinos woefully underrepresented in films, TV shows

This combination of photos shows actors, from left, John Leguizamo, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Rita Moreno, Anthony Ramos and Wilmer Valderrama. “In the Heights” brought great expectations to the Latino community, which has been historically underrepresented and typecast on the screen. But Many are hopeful it will mark a new beginning in Hollywood for the largest minority in the U.S. (AP Photo)
From left, John Leguizamo, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Rita Moreno, Anthony Ramos and Wilmer Valderrama. These Latino actors are among the few with major roles in films or TV shows. A new report shows the Latino community remains underrepresented and typecast on the screen. (AP Photo)

Latinos remain mostly invisible on network TV and cable TV, and in films, according to a new report released Thursday morning.

The sixth annual report by the non-profit Latino Donor Collaborative is being unveiled at the group’s 2023 L’ATTITUDE conference this week at The Fontainebleau Miami Beach, which runs through Sunday. The conference is focused on the power of the U.S. Latino market.

“Unfortunately, this report confirms there has been no significant increase in U.S. Latino representation in shows and films during the past six years, which is a HUGE business blind spot,” said Sol Trujillo, LDC founder and chairman of the board, and Ana Valdez, LDC president and CEO, in a joint statement.

“As U.S. Latinos continue to grow, the gap between their economic importance and their absence from the entertainment industry is leaving profitable opportunities on the table,” Trujillo and Valdez said.

READ MORE: Report: U.S. Latino economic muscle grows to $3.2 trillion

The report’s findings show the percentage of U.S. Latino leads in TV shows is negligible, moving from 2.6% in 2022 to 3.3% in 2023. It represents a small percentage in comparison to the proportion of Latinos in the U.S. The nation is home to about 63 million Latinos who comprise 19.1% of the U.S. population.

In films, Latinos also remain severely underrepresented in leading roles having grown from 5.1% to 5.7%, the report found.

The report noted that the Latino population grew from about 31 million 1998 to nearly 63 million, but “the entertainment industry remains unmoved by this fact.”

“Based on the available data, a reasonable deduction would suggest that industry decision−makers are likely aware of this particular demographic and economic growth in the past twenty-five years, but they are actively ignoring it for both on- and off-screen hiring practices,” notes the report.

Among some of the starkest data, the report found:

  • In streaming films, Latinos in lead roles fell from 6.9% to 6.3%, while Latino co-leads, showrunners, and directors experienced slight increases.
  • Only 33 of 987 shows produced and aired on network TV by August 2023 had a Latino lead. Out of almost 9,870 episodes that aired, only 189 were directed by Latinos.
  • Basic cable was “the unfortunate poster child of what Latino invisibility in media looks like," noting that most cable channels had no Latino leads, no Latino co-leads, no Latino showrunners, and no Latino directors in 2023.

“No industry has ignored this cohort year after year as blatantly as cable television,” the report’s authors wrote.
“Even though this report shines a glaring spotlight on the lack of U.S. Latino inclusion, an equally important emphasis should be on how the media industry, which is trying to cut costs and grow its audience, continues to ignore a cohort that is nothing but growth,” the report concluded.

Similar findings emerged in a 2019 report about the media industry by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, at the request of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

It found Latinos largely missing in major newsrooms, Hollywood films and other media industries where their portrayals — or lack thereof — could deeply impact how their fellow Americans view them.

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