Premium Gist of Yojana: October 2013
PSB: WHOLESOME ENTERTAINMENT EDUCATION TRANSMEDIA STORYTELLING
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
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.