USC Annenberg to grade Hollywood’s diversity efforts

The school announces a project to rate and reward entertainment companies on their hiring, casting and content

January 21, 2015 USC Annenberg staff

The USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism announced a new initiative designed to enhance diversity across the entertainment industry.

The project, which will rate and reward media companies based on how inclusive they are, comes in the aftermath of this year’s Academy Award nominations, which have been criticized for a lack of diversity.

The ratings will study the content media companies produce as well as 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.

Diversity decisions

USC Annenberg researchers will catalog the chain of command at major media companies to examine diversity in decisions made by executives. In addition, several aspects of on-screen diversity across film, television 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 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,” said Smith, director of the MDSC Initiative. “Across 600 popular films between 2007 and 2013, just two were directed by black women.

We need a broader look at who is doing well and who needs to step up their game.

Stacy Smith

“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 added.

In addition to scoring companies based on the aforementioned criteria, 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 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.”