The Ferreira family were portrayed stereotypically, the report said
TV soaps EastEnders and Coronation Street stereotype ethnic minorities, according to a report.
But talent shows like The X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing represented the UK's diverse ethnic mix, it said.
The report's leader, Trevor Phillips - head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission - said TV companies remained "hideously white".
It was commissioned by Channel 4 after the alleged racist bullying of Shilpa Shetty on Celebrity Big Brother.
About 100 people were questioned in focus groups for the report.
Mr Phillips, who wrote the report in a private capacity, said its findings highlighted the need to "change and to embrace diversity".
"Everyone knows that if we don't we are headed for oblivion," he said.
He added: "Our problem is that as an industry we have no idea what to do about it.
"We have too little knowledge, too little diversity amongst our decision makers and, above all, too little incentive to act decisively."
Viewers cited Asian corner shop owner Dev in Coronation Street, Asian family the Ferreiras - who used to run the minicab firm in EastEnders - and road sweeper Gus, a black character in the same soap, as examples of stereotyping.
Emmerdale, Hollyoaks and Home and Away were singled out for having "virtually no ethnic minority characters".
US show Friends was criticised for being "too white" as was the Vicar of Dibley starring Dawn French.
The report said that respondents found quiz show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? "very UK-centric in its general knowledge questions which made it more difficult for minorities to get through".
Reality shows including The Apprentice, current affairs programmes Dispatches and Panorama, and dramas including Casualty, Holby City and The Bill were all cited as "positive examples of diverse British programmes".
Indian respondents praised Channel 4 News and the recent BBC series on the partition of India.
Doctor Who was singled out for praise by some respondents
Black members of focus groups singled out Doctor Who - which featured black actress Freema Agyeman as the doctor's assistant - and US shows Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and The Cosby Show.
Mr Phillips, presenting his findings to a meeting of television executives at Channel 4's London headquarters on Wednesday night, called for a levy on all major productions to establish a diversity fund.
The fund would be used to finance schemes to improve diversity.
"These might include training, content development, shadowing schemes, or any other programme that would encourage and deliver greater diversity," Mr Phillips said.
Firms that could prove they had similar internal programmes in place could reclaim the levy, he said.
In May, BBC non-executive director Samir Shah complained that a "tick box approach to equal opportunities has led to an inauthentic representation of who we are".
He said this had led to "a world of deracinated coloured people flickering across our screens - to the irritation of many viewers and the embarrassment of the very people such actions are meant to appease".
In 2001, after being appointed director general of the BBC, Greg Dyke accused the corporation of being "hideously white".