(Premium) Gist of Yojana: October 2013

Premium Gist of Yojana: October 2013


Public Broadcasting systems all over the world face an existential crisis, caught in the dialectical vortex of serving the public and private good, as an agendasetter and democratizer, through technologies of broadcasting andnarrowcasting, while implementing programming that entertains and educates. Whether it is the BBC in United Kingdom, HK in Japan, Public Broadcasting Corporation in the U.S., the Kenyan Broadcasting Corporation in Kenya, or the Prasar Bharati Corporation of India, public broadcasters must question their meaning and purpose in a world run amuck by bits and bytes, big screens and handhelds, technological convergence and consumptive fragmentation. Digitization, privatization, globalization, localization, customization, democratization, are all here. And, to stay!

Amidst this cacophony of intersecting purposes and interests, shaped by converging technology, expanding connectivity, and consumer fragmentation, no one road map exists for public broadcasters to follow. The media and audience-scape in the present 21st century is a system far too complex for public broadcasters to engineer and orchestrate. There are far too many moving parts, closely and loosely coupled, orderly and chaotic, and both indifferent and sensitive to big and small shifts in technology, policy, and global and local exigencies. Further, historical, cultural, social, and political forces exert influence, direct and indirect.

The science of complexity would tell us that when systems are characterized by multiple, interrelated underlying connections and causes, higher order outcomes accrue not by massive machine-like engineering, but rather by charting a steady course, guided by few minimal specifications (Singhal, 2008; Lacayo, Obregon, & Singhal, 2008). In biological and natural systems, we observe many such manifestations of highly complex behavior guided by simple rules— as in flocking of birds, shoaling of fish, swarming of insects, or herding of animals. Birds and fish engage in complex swirling maneuvers by following a few simple rules: maintain equal distance with neighbours, steering in the general direction of where the mass is moving. From these simple rules, order emerges in a complex environment, allowing for adaptation, self-correction, and onward action.

In rethinking purpose in a complex world, public broadcasters in the 21st century, I would argue, need only focus on few beacons. In this article, I discuss one such guiding beacon: a striving for Wholesome Entertainment- Education Transmedia Storytelling. In so doing, public broadcasting systems can lead from the front, while continually adapting and self-correcting on the unfolding path.

Allow me to say more about what I mean by “Wholesome Entertainment- Education” and “Transmedia Storytelling,” and let me illustrate with examples.

Wholesome Entertainment-Education Strategy

The idea of seamlessly integrating entertainment with education goes as far back in human history as the timeless art of storytelling. For millennia, music, drama, dance, and folk media have been used in every society for recreation, devotion, reformation, and instruction. However, “entertainment-education” as a purposive communication strategy is a relatively new concept in that its conscious use in radio, television, popular music, films, and interactive digital media has received attention only in the past few decades. (Singhal, 2013a; Singhal, Cody, Rogers, & Sabido, 2004; Singhal & Rogers, 1999; Wang & Singhal, 2009; Lacayo & Singhal, 2008).

In its initial decades, entertainmenteducation (E-E) was broadly defined as “the process of purposely designing and implementing a media message both to entertain and educate, in order to increase audience members’ knowledge about educational issues, create favorable attitudes, shift social norms, and change overt behavior” (Singhal, Cody, Rogers, & Sabido, 2004, p. 5; also see Singhal & Rogers, 1999, p. 9). However, in recent years, with the exponential growth in the development and popularity of digital interactive entertainment, Wang and Singhal (2009) proposed a reformulation: “Entertainment-education is a theory-based communication strategy for purposefully embedding educational and social issues in the creation, production, processing, and dissemination process of an entertainment program, in order to achieve desired individual, community, institutional, and societal changes among the intended media user populations”.

In radio, the most well-known E-E application occurred in 1951, when BBC began broadcasting The Archers, a British radio soap opera that carried educational messages about agricultural development. As the world’s longest running radio soap opera, The Archers continues to be broadcast to this date, addressing contemporary issues such as HIV / AIDS prevention and environmental conservation.

In television, E-E was discovered more-or- Iess by accident in Peru in 1969, when the television soap opera Simplemente Maria (Simply Maria) was broadcast (Singhal, Obregon, & Rogers, 1994). The main character, Maria, a migrant to the capital city, worked during the day as a maid, and enrolled in adult literacy classes in the evening. She climbed the socio-economic ladder of success through her hard work, strong motion, and later developed seamstress ills with a Singer sewing machine.