Modern Family - Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Eric Stonestreet
Broadcast television is on the rise while scripted cable programming is in decline when it comes to the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered primetime regular characters, according to GLAAD's 2009 Where We Are On TV report.
LGBT characters on the Big 5 networks increased to the highest percentage yet — 3 percent of all characters, totaling 18.
GLAAD's network responsibility report gives good marks to HBO, Showtime, ABC
The report, which relied on research and information given by the networks, studied TV characters on both broadcast and cable shows from the current 2009-2010 TV schedule.
"Networks are catching up to cable shows in terms of interest, willingness and excitement to include LGBT characters," GLAAD President Jarrett Tomás Barrios tells TVGuide.com. "The characters we are seeing on networks are a diverse representation of gay and lesbian people."
Barrios called the increased LGBT representation on network comedies, specifically such as Modern Family and Glee, "encouraging."
ABC — home to shows such as Family and Brothers & Sisters — led the pack with eight shows featuring LGBT characters. Fox came in second with four characters, while NBC and The CW followed with three and two characters, respectively. CBS found itself at the bottom with no regular LGBT characters.
"It's vexing that CBS hasn't grown in the diversity of its characters by including LGBT characters in regular recurring roles," Barrios said. "In contrast, we've seen real progress in NBC and in Fox in their scripted series."
On cable, the total number of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender regular characters dropped from 32 to 25. The dip marks a 38 percent decline on cable in the past two years.
However, Barrios said there is still an upside to the decline in the percentage of regular LGBT characters on scripted drama. "There's speculation that perhaps it's not the edgy issue that it once was and I would take that as a positive," he said. "People imagine that cable is able to experiment with more controversial topics and being gay and lesbian is increasingly less controversial."
HBO, Showtime and Sundance account for a big portion of the 25 cable characters, but the report applauded both ABC Family and SyFy for becoming more LGBT-friendly in recent years with series such as Greek and the upcoming Stargate Universe.
Reality TV also received mention for its strong representation of the LGBT community.
With only one transgender character and a small percentage of minority LGBT characters on both broadcast and cable, there's still work to be done, Barrios said.
"Let's see if we can't increase the number of gay and lesbian characters in these shows, the variety of the people who play these roles and deepen the storylines," Barrios said. "Americans can benefit by better understanding their gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, co-workers and friends through the medium of television."