ACLU is Calling on New York Legislators to Pass Diversity Bill for TV Shows

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Television has a diversity problem. The New York Civil Liberties Union, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and the ACLU Women’s Rights Project hope to remedy that problem by pushing the New York State Senate to pass a bill giving New York TV shows tax benefits for employing women and people of color as writers and directors. On Wednesday, the three groups released a statement in support of the new legislation currently being decided in New York’s senate.

The bill, proposed in 2013 but stalled in New York’s Republican-controlled Senate, would allow $5 million of the state’s $420 million annual tax credits to be used as incentives for hiring more women and people of color as writers and directors. The bill would give up to a $50,000 tax break for each minority hired, Deadline reports.

“The New York State Senate has the opportunity to take real, meaningful action to address the troubling lack of diversity in television,” Lowell Peterson, executive director of the Writers Guild of America, East, said in a statement. “The WGAE is pleased to join with the Directors Guild of America in supporting this important legislation. More diverse storytelling will strengthen support for our industry and ensure its long-term health and relevance. We hope Majority Leader Flanagan brings the bill to a vote before the end of session.”

According to the joint statement from the three groups, from 2014 to 2015, white men directed 69 percent of television episodes, men of color directed 15 percent, white women directed 13 percent and women of color directed just three percent. Women make up 30 percent of television writers and only one percent are women of color. In addition to the bill led by Assemblyman Keith Wright and Sen. Kemp Hannon, the ACLU has been pushing the U.S. Civil Rights Commission to investigate the underemployment of female film and TV directors.

Bernadette Brown, deputy legislative director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, told Crain’s the following:

New York is an entertainment capital and a progressive leader. By creating incentives for equity and inclusion in television, the state has a powerful opportunity to promote greater awareness of how we perceive race and gender, and how we act on those perceptions — how a police officer views a black man; how a teacher treats a Latino child; what a young girl believes she can accomplish when she grows up.

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