After being hounded with questions about the network's lack of diversity, CBS entertainment president Glenn Geller told critics at the Television Critics Association conference that he's aware they need to do better.
"We're very mindful at CBS about the importance of diversity and inclusion," Geller said. "We need to do better and we know it. That's it. We know we need to do better."
All 10 of CBS' upcoming pilots this fall feature white men or women as lead characters. Geller said CBS had taken notice of it and tried to increase diversity in other sections — making 11 of the 16 ensemble actors people of color — but was aware that doesn't fix the main problem the network is continuously faced with. Geller, who has been asked this question repeatedly, was prepared for the onslaught of questions about the lack of diversity on CBS shows.
"I'm glad this question came up first," Geller said. "Those aren't just words. This is real action. I know there's an inclination to look at the screen and say, 'What's going on? Why are you less diverse?'
"I do want to point out that in the ensemble casting we are more diverse than last year and that's progress."
Geller added that they were dedicated to increasing diversity in areas that weren't just in front of the camera, too. He said they were pouring more financial resources into their diversity team to hire more diverse writers and directors, but there was another area that the network needed to focus on pretty badly.
"We need to do better and we know it"
Out of the 10 shows premiering this fall, all 10 showrunners are white men. Geller, who had become visibly defensive over the line of questioning, reiterated that he was aware of the problem, but sometimes there wasn't anything you could do about that.
"Sometimes the showrunners are diverse, sometimes they're not diverse," Geller said. "We picked up the best shows from the pilots we made."
Geller said that they were working to ensure that every aspect of their company was diverse and believed that they were making progress, even if it was at a slower pace than they would have liked. One of the issues closest to his heart was the representation, or lack thereof, of LGBT characters on major network programs.
"It's a very personal topic for me and I think things are definitely shifting," Geller said. "In terms of LGBT characters, we have more LGBT representation than ever before. I think those trends will continue and we're committed to it."
Still, Geller didn't give any additional details on a concrete plan of action for how the network was going to tackle the diversity issue. When asked if Geller or his colleagues had plans to go out and find diverse creators and actors they could bring to new or returning series, Geller didn't provide any comment. Instead, Geller repeated that the network was committed to diversifying its programming, reiterating the same sentence he used over and over again during his talk.
"This is our commitment and we know that we need to do better in certain areas," Geller said. "We know that. We're trying to change, we really are. We need to do better."