"We're very disappointed in our track record so far. We'll try to do better." Those repentant words are from CBS Television's President Nina Tassler. And, no, she wasn't apologizing to shareholders for a bad quarter.
According to LifeSiteNews, Tassler apologized at the Television Critics Association a few weeks ago for receiving a "Failing" grade in the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (or GLAAD) in its annual Network Responsibility Index.
Every year GLAAD tracks the way lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transsexuals (LGBTs) are portrayed on prime time television.
"GLAAD analysts," the Index says, "noted whether the LGBT depictions were minor or major, as well as the orientation/gender identity and the race/ethnicity of the characters depicted." They also counted, "any significant discussion of issues pertaining to LGBT lives."
They found that out of eleven hundred hours of original prime time programming on CBS only 7% were "LGBT-inclusive."
Compared with other networks, this is very low. For example, on MTV, the only network ever to receive an "Excellent" rating, 42% of their original prime time programming was "LGBT-inclusive," including MTV's reality show The Real World, depicting roommates with a variety of sexual orientations and True Life: I'm Changing My Sex.
TV shows with gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender characters abound on the other major networks as well. And the fact that that last year CBS alone of the networks "had no LGBT series regular characters on any of its original scripted programs" puts it decidedly out of step with the competition. That's the problem poor Ms Tassler promises to solve.
Why is this so important? "GLAAD has seen time and again," the Index reports, "how images of multi-dimensional gay and transgender people on television have the power to change public perceptions."
In a recent survey, among the 19% of people who reported that their feelings toward gay and lesbian people have become more favorable over the past 5 years, 34% cited one reason as "seeing gay or lesbian characters on television."
This is because television creates a false sense of intimacy. The longer we watch a television show, the closer we feel to the characters, provided they are presented in a positive light. Viewers, you see, begin sympathizing more and more with their stories.
Folks, in the vernacular, this is called "propaganda." A deliberate effort to cram a particular view down our throats. It's outrageous that the networks are allowing this to happen.
But by changing the face of sexuality on prime time television GLAAD is trying to change the face of sexuality in the culture. Beware, because they are looking at your school, home, office, and church.
Is it working? Yes, in some senses. But there's another side of the story buried in the Index. MTV, after receiving an "Excellent" rating from GLAAD, won't be included in next year's report. It seems that MTV's market share has slipped so low that it's no longer among the top eight networks according to the Nielsen Ratings.
So while GLAAD loves MTV and its gay-friendly programming, America is turning it off. And that's good news.