SEND EDUCATIONAL MESSAGES TO GLOBAL
Arvind Singhal, (740) 593-4903, firstname.lastname@example.org
Ohio -- Though television has been criticized in recent
years for promoting sex and violence, an Ohio University
researcher has found that soap operas in developing nations
are making a positive impact, encouraging audiences to adopt
more progressive attitudes and behaviors toward gender
equality, HIV prevention, adult literacy and other social
in countries such as India, China, Mexico and Peru have
successfully blended educational messages into engaging
television or radio soap operas to inspire social change.
For example, residents of the northern India village of
Lutsaan who were avid listeners of the radio drama "Tinka
Tinka Sukh" ("Happiness Lies in Small Things"), which
promoted gender equality, renounced the local custom of
demanding a bridal dowry, and enrollment of girls in the
village school rose from 10 percent to 40 percent during the
programs are not the magic bullet that will solve all these
problems, but they provide a climate in which people can
discuss issues and some people may be motivated to make
changes," says Arvind Singhal, an Ohio University associate
professor of interpersonal communication and co-author of
the book "Entertainment-Education: A Communication Strategy
for Society Change," published by Lawrence Erlbaum
opera format of these programs is key to their popularity,
Singhal says. The episodic, often every weekday airing of
these shows allows producers to repeat educational messages.
Dramatic story lines keep audiences enthralled. "Melodrama
really is a struggle between opposing forces, good or bad,"
he says. "The soap opera naturally lends itself to the
depiction of prosocial behavior and antisocial
past studies have focused solely on measuring the impacts of
entertainment-education programs, Singhal's book, which he
co-authored with Everett Rogers of the University of New
Mexico, also explains why the shows cause audience members
to change attitudes and practices.
studies, which have been published and presented for
professional audiences, found that such motivational
programs effected mainly individual, short-term behavior
changes, prompted by viewers' identification with story
characters whom they saw as role models. Discussion of the
plot twists with friends, family and neighbors also fostered
greater awareness of social issues, as evidenced by the
larger number of audience members who reported adopting
family planning and HIV prevention practices or attending
adult education classes after the shows' broadcasts.
entertainment-education strategy especially has worked in
nations that aren't saturated with media options, Singhal
says. Two programs, India's "Tinka Tinka Sukh" and Chinese
television's "Baixing" ("Ordinary Chinese People"), draw 35
million listeners and 40 million viewers respectively.
Singhal currently is studying these shows to gauge their
long-term impact on women's social status. Even if the
programming influences only a few million audience members,
who in turn can share that knowledge with others, he says,
the soap opera has made headway.
embedding social messages in pop culture raise ethical
questions -- who should determine what values are right for
whom? -- Singhal says that producers often develop their
missions from national constitutions or United Nations
declarations, with the consensus of government stakeholders.
Hiring writers, directors and crew members from the show's
target audience provides credibility. Messages promoted in
the programs, such as how to prevent the spread of the HIV
virus, may be controversial, but have universal appeal,
private corporations are somewhat reluctant to produce
entertainment-education shows on their own, the popularity
of these programs generates continued commercial financial
support. "I think the biggest lesson is that you can be
commercially viable and socially responsible," Singhal says.
But that's not a lesson most American producers have
learned, he adds.
United States, the media is so entrenched here, so
commercially focused, that it's not easy for Hollywood to
make entertainment-education programs," he says. "Once they
begin to find out that it doesn't hurt ratings, gradually we
may see more involvement by Hollywood. But I don't think
pure entertainment is going to go away or that media will
overnight become responsible, because I think economics will
still continue to drive the market."
holds an appointment in the Ohio University College of