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Columbia University Study Finds Latinos Underrepresented in TV, Movie Roles; Even Fewer in Top Media Positions

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First Posted: Jun 19, 2014 01:32 PM EDT
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Actresses Salma Hayek (L) and Penelope Cruz arrive on a red carpet. (Photo : Getty Images/Kevin Winter)

According to a study released by Columbia University on Tuesday, Latinos are underrepresented in mainstream U.S. media.

The study, titled "The Latino Media Gap: A Report on the State of Latinos in U.S. Media," was co-authored by Frances Negrón-Muntaner, director of Columbia University's Center for the Study of Ethnicity and Race, and commissioned by Colombia University, National Association of Latino Independent Producers and National Hispanic Foundation for the Arts, with funding from National Latino Arts, Education and Media Institute.

"A review of the top movies and television program reveals that there is a narrower range of stories and roles, and fewer Latino lead actors in the entertainment industry today, than there were seventy years ago," the study said. "Likewise, whereas the Latino population grew more than 43 percent from 2000 to 2010, the rate of media participation -- behind and in front of the camera ... stayed stagnant or grew only slightly, at times proportionately declining."

The study found that while Latinos represented 17 percent of the population in 2013, no Latino was the lead actor in any of the top-10 movies or scripted network TV programs.

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"On television and movies, Latinos continue to be represented primarily as criminals, law enforcers, and cheap labor," the study reports.

Meanwhile, Latino men earned less than three percent of supporting roles in film and TV.

"Latinos are constantly portrayed with a broad brush, and the picture displayed is extremely limited," Esai Morales, NHFA co-founder and "Criminal Minds" actor, told Fox News Latino. "I call it the four H's of Hollywood. Latinos are either cast as overly hormonal, overly hysterical, overly hostile or overly humble. Far too often we're supposed to be the spice on the side rather than a central figure, a hero, or leader, and that needs to change."

Latina actresses have it better, representing 67 percent of all Latino supporting roles. Latinas also represented 4.6 percent of female leads in film and 9.5 percent of supporting female TV roles in the study.

Latinos were also found to be scarce in behind-the-scenes media roles.

Only one Latina (and no Latino men) can be found amongst the top-54 studio, TV and radio executives and chairpersons. There are no Latino studio heads, network presidents, or media CEOs, the study reports.

From 2010-2013, of the top-10 TV shows, Latinos represented just 1.1 percent of producers, 2 percent of writers and 4.1 percent of directors. Of the top-10 movies in that timeframe, Latinos represented 2.2 percent of producers, 6 percent of writers and 2.3 percent of directors.

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