VIACOMCBS GLOBAL INSIGHTS: ACCURATE, AUTHENTIC ON-SCREEN REPRESENTATION MATTERS TO GLOBAL AUDIENCES
Global Study of More than 15,000 People Worldwide Uncovers a Need for the Entertainment Industry to Commit to Increased Diversity On-Screen And Off-Screen
Nearly 9 in 10 People Globally Agree TV Shows and Movies Influence Perceptions, and More than Half Say they are Not Represented Accurately On-Screen
After Knowing Someone Personally, Media Representation is the #1 Way to Foster Empathy and Understanding of Differences
ViacomCBS, parent company of Paramount+, CBS, MTV, Nickelodeon and Comedy Central, today released the findings of its newest Global Insights project, Reflecting Me: Global Representation On Screen, which uncovers that global audiences feel entertainment companies have a responsibility to increase authentic, accurate on-screen representation.
Reflecting Me: Global Representation On Screen is an expansive in-depth exploration of how television and entertainment teach people about themselves and others, with more than 15,000 people surveyed from across 15 countries worldwide. The study was commissioned by ViacomCBS Networks International’s Race and Equity Taskforce, as part of Content for Change, a global ViacomCBS initiative that aims to counteract racism, bias, stereotypes and hate through the company’s culture, creative supply chain, and ultimately the content it creates.
Representation matters to audiences all around the world, with more than 80 percent calling for more to be done to improve representation both on and off screen. It is also widely recognized that representation has an impact on the real world by influencing people’s perceptions, with 85 percent of respondents in agreement. Those that feel poorly represented suggest that this is not only due to not seeing enough people like them on screen but also due to seeing inaccurate portrayals, with more than half (52 percent) of people who feel poorly represented saying accuracy is lacking.
“Representation in media is a critical component to authentically connecting with diverse audiences and communities,” said Colleen Fahey Rush, EVP, Chief Research Officer, ViacomCBS. “Along with launching our expanded Content for Change initiative, this study reflects how ViacomCBS is proactively taking steps to transform our entire creative ecosystem to better serve our audiences and create meaningful change now and for the future.”
“Through this study, for the first time, we see evidence of the connection between representation on screen and mental health,” said Christian Kurz, Senior Vice President, Global Streaming and Corporate Insights. “We know representation done right can aid in improving the lives of people globally and have the responsibility not only to continue the changes within our industry but also serve as a catalyst for positive social change around the world.”
“From the early days after the formation of the VCNI Programming and Audience Task Force, we knew that in order to succeed, we had to understand the opinions behind the scenes — those of our audience,” said one of ViacomCBS’ Race and Equity Task Force Leaders, Susan Nave. “Made up of an international team across all aspects of our business, we worked in close collaboration with the global insights team to identify key markets and individuals, giving us a truly international view around on-screen representation. We think it’s eye opening, thought provoking and an excellent road map for our business.”
Additional key findings include:
The Importance of Representation
Representation matters to audiences all around the world. In fact, audiences are calling for more to be done to improve representation, both on and off screen.
More than 80 percent of people globally say it is important that TV shows and movies offer diverse representation of lots of different groups and identities
This rises to 85 percent among people with mixed heritage, nearly 90 percent among marginalized ethnic groups, and more than 90 percent among Black people
The Complexity of Representation
Respondents agreed, effective representation is not just about seeing themselves reflected on screen, it’s also about how they’re represented.
Among those who feel poorly represented in TV shows and movies, nearly 6 in 10 feel that people like them are not represented enough
Among those who feel poorly represented in TV shows and movies, more than half feel that people like them are represented inaccurately
Around the world, the feeling of being poorly represented is due to a combination of factors, which vary somewhat country by country. Interestingly, in every country, the #1 issue with representation is either around race or ethnicity or economic status.
Top factors poorly represented in TV shows and movies:
“Race and ethnicity” ranks #1 in Australia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Singapore, South Africa, UK and USA
“Economic status” ranks #1 in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Poland
However, how well represented you feel depends on who you are and where you are in the world.
For example, some country differences between the factors poorly represented in TV and movies are:
“Race and ethnicity” is not in the top 5 for Argentina, Chile, Germany, Italy and Poland
“Age” ranks #2 in Australia, Germany, Poland and the UK
“Religion or beliefs” ranks #2 in Brazil, Malaysia and Singapore
Although appearance is very important, representation is not just about how people look – often the sorts of lives people see reflected on screen don’t look like theirs.
Those who feel poorly represented, also say they do not see enough people that:
“Behave like me” (33%)
“Are the same economic level as me” (29%)
“Speak with the same accent or dialect as me” (22%)
“Have a family like mine” (21%)
“Live in a home like mine” (21%)
Reasons for Feeling Poorly Represented
Many who feel poorly represented do not see enough people like them on screen, based on aspects of their appearance.
Nearly 70 percent of people who feel poorly represented globally say they do not see enough people like them on screen, based on aspects of their appearance, such as their body type, and how they look and dress.
Colorism is also an issue that globally more than half of women agree, the impact of colorism means that women with lighter skin tones are often seen as more appealing – and equally are often more present on screen.
Conventions of appearance also negatively impact gender non-conforming and disabled people, and among those who feel poorly represented, nearly 40 percent of those with a physical disability say they don’t see people with their body type on-screen.
The Impact of Poor Representation
Perpetuating stereotypes and lazy portrayals of different groups are hugely damaging to audiences. Harmful stereotypes are especially apparent among certain ethnic groups, who feel they are portrayed in particularly negative ways. For example:
Middle Eastern and Arabic people (20%) and Black people (18%) feel they are portrayed as criminal
Middle Eastern and Arabic people (19%) and Indigenous people (10%) feel they are portrayed as angry
Middle Eastern and Arabic people (17%) and Black people (16%) feel they are portrayed as dangerous
Poor representation has a negative impact on the way people feel.
Nearly 60 percent of those who feel poorly represented say it makes them feel unimportant, ignored, or disappointed
Among those that feel poorly represented, the top three areas that a lack of representation impacts are:
“Self-esteem and confidence” (41%)
“Sense of belonging” (40%)
Globally, nearly 60 percent of those who feel their gender identity is poorly represented say their self-esteem and confidence is affected
Among those who feel their disability is poorly represented on screen, more than 40 percent say this lack of representation has affected their mental health (more than twice as likely as others who feel poorly represented)
Nearly 40 percent of those who feel their race or ethnicity is poorly represented say their connection to their cultural heritage is affected (more than twice as high as the average among all people who feel poorly represented)
The Need for Change…
Globally, most people agree that change is needed.
Nearly 80 percent agree more diversity is needed in TV shows and movies.
This rises to more than 80 percent among people who consider themselves part of an under-represented group, and nearly 90 percent among Black people.
Only half of people globally are satisfied with the current level of representation that they see in TV shows and movies
Audiences give equal weight to the importance of authenticity and diversity when it comes to on screen representation.
More than half of people globally feel there needs to be more accurate representation of certain groups and identities in TV shows and movies.
There is widespread optimism for the future of representation on screen, even among those who feel poorly represented.
In the next five years, nearly half of people globally think representation in TV shows and movies will get better
For more research detail from Reflecting Me: Global Representation On Screen, visit Insights.ViacomCBS.com.
*Research details: Global survey of 15,387 people aged 13-49 across 15 countries (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, UK, USA), together with remote video interviews in 7 countries with people from a diverse range of backgrounds and identities.
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