Sixteen homosexual characters are depicted in network TV series scheduled for the 2005-06 season, a small increase over last year but still inadequate, the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (search) said Monday.

Out of 710 characters appearing on a regular or recurring basis on the six major broadcast networks in the new season, about 2 percent are gay, lesbian or bisexual, according to the group's annual study.

Last season, GLAAD counted 11 homosexual characters on network shows.

While there is no definitive figure available for the U.S. gay and lesbian population, GLAAD believes the number is "certainly higher" than that represented on network TV, spokesman Damon Romine said in an interview Monday.

"This is a shocking misrepresentation of reality and of the audience watching these programs," Romine added in the report of the group's findings.

Although GLAAD has conducted the study for 10 years, this was the first time the specific percentage of gay characters on TV was calculated, Romine said. The figure is intended to provide a benchmark to measure progress in future seasons.

Many gay and lesbian characters fall into minor or supporting roles in the TV season that begins the week of Sept. 19, GLAAD found. Homosexual characters also tend to lack ethnic and gender diversity.

The study looked at 110 scripted shows and found 16 characters on 14 shows. There were 13 males and three females. Thirteen were white.

"If you're looking at network television to see a good cross-section of our community, you're not going to find it," Romine said. "What you will find is primarily gay white males."

Cable TV is ahead of broadcast in "exploring our lives, families and careers" and features 25 lesbian and gay characters in the new season, the group said.

Among the shows cited on cable with major homosexual characters: Showtime's "The L Word," Comedy Central's "Reno 911!" and FX's "Starved." Broadcast shows with gay or lesbian representation include NBC's "Will & Grace" and ABC's "Desperate Housewives."