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'Bachelor' show discrimination? Why prime time TV is whiter than in 1976.

'Bachelor' show discrimination is at issue in a lawsuit that alleges the ABC program sought to exclude minorities. But 'The Bachelor' isn't alone in being predominately white. 

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The other is networks' bottom line, and "The Bachelor" is a prime example. 

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The major networks have largely come to the conclusion, over many years of observation, ratings, and Q-tests, “that mostly white candidates on these types of shows will typically drive the highest number of viewers to them, since whites are still the largest single demographic group that they will reach, and these viewers, more often than not, wish to see individuals that are like themselves,” says Gordon Goedkoop, professor of communication at LaSalle University in Philadelphia, via e-mail.

Even with the proliferation of media sources online, the same principle has held firm.

“The finding from my experience is that even as the number of potential sources has proliferated online, there is no significant difference in the amount of diversity of talent and on-air performers,” says Len Shyles, communication professor at Villanova University in Philadelphia. “Why is this? In my view, it is because garnering profits is still at the heart of program production, and that is not tied to diversity concerns.”

The proliferation of African-American programming on cable outlets such as BET (Black Entertainment Television) might suggest there is less pressure for the broadcast networks to diversify. Yet the major networks have the greatest sway in influencing society because they "still put together the largest viewing audiences,” says Professor Thompson. 

ABC has declined to comment on the "Bachelor" lawsuit, but diversity advocates say networks must go deeper than counting minority characters. They need to implement practices that change the culture of the business.

"The measure of progress can’t just be in terms of casting and programming,” says Andrea Hoffman, founder and CEO of Diversity Affluence. “The industry can grow ... by measuring diversity and inclusion across all areas of its business.”

She sees signs of progress in the diverse casting of hit reality shows including CBS's "Amazing Race" and "Survivor." She lauds NBC's "30 Rock" for casting notable African-Americans, and she highlights a TBS distribution deal with celebrated African-American writer/actor Tyler Perry to produce shows for the network. 

Audiences, too, always have the power of the pocketbook at their disposal, says Earl Ofari Hutchinson, author of seven books on the black experience in America. He says: “If they can’t have a single lead contestant be black after all these years, and can’t or won’t find one, I say blacks should say they can’t and won’t watch or buy from their sponsors,”

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