Television without colorTELEVISION networks play a strong...

NOTES AND COMMENTS

July 18, 1999

Television without color

TELEVISION networks play a strong role in shaping the way we see ourselves as a nation. But they are failing miserably to present an accurate portrait.

Some might say that looking for reality on the tube is like seeking wisdom from a fool. But the networks' offerings for the next television season are worse than what anyone could expect in 1999.

Times have changed since the medium treated minority groups as if they did not exist. Judging by the lineup, however, next season's schedule looks an awful lot like 1955, when television was in its infancy.

Not one of the 26 new series in the networks' fall lineup has an African-American in the lead, and few minorities have secondary roles. The NAACP is right -- that's unacceptable. Television executives should feel some obligation to reflect the country's diversity.

But network executives seem to believe that they can best attract advertisers with shows that have white characters in the lead. Some studies have shown that the viewing habits of African Americans are vastly different.

Yet the crossover appeal of the Huxtables of the 1980s hit, "The Cosby Show," proves that white audiences will watch a well-done program with a mostly black cast.

What will it take for the networks to learn from this?

Few surprises

WE may be No. 1 in women's soccer, but the United States is only the third-best country in which to live, according to the 1999 U.N. Human Development Report. The annual survey looks at such factors as life expectancy, education, income and health care.

Canada was ranked first -- for the sixth consecutive year -- followed by Norway.

Better third than last, though. The other end of the scale was sadly predictable: The least developed countries in human terms were -- from the bottom up -- Sierra Leone, Niger and Ethiopia.

Pub Date: 7/18/99

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