Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Hayg Oshagan


This study examines the nature and number of character portrayals in broadcast entertainment programming. More specifically, the portrayals of African American characters are examined and compared to Caucasian portrayals. The goal of this study is to determine what, if any, stereotypes may still be prevalent on broadcast television and if there are any discrepancies between portrayals of African American and Caucasian characters.

A content analysis methodology was utilized to code 577 character occurrences from broadcast television entertainment programs popular with African Americans and Caucasian audiences. Each character occurrence was evaluated using thirty-two schematic differential items with regard to portrayal attributes, physical characteristics, behavioral characteristics, appearance characteristics, and the five factor model of personality elements. T-test and z-score analysis were used to determine significant differences between items.

Results determined that African American characters were not portrayed in a negative manner when compared to Caucasian characters. African American characters were underrepresented on television but were within 2% of their population rate. However, in programming watched by African Americans, they were overrepresented. The most common significantly different characteristics found between African American and Caucasian characters on broadcast entertainment programming were hair color, skin color, amount of makeup and amount of accessories.

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Communication Commons