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In the United States the inclusion of social issues in prime-time television or daytime dramas is not a new concept. Issues such as breast cancer, alcoholism, abortion, teen pregnancy, and HIV/AIDS have been portrayed by Hollywood in diverse shows such as ER, Beverly Hills 90210, General Hospital, and Ellen to mention a few (Glik, 1998).

Many researchers have conducted studies on entertainment-education efforts in promoting health related issues. An evaluation component is usually part of the campaign strategy. Vaughan et. al. (2000) claim that the radio soap opera “Twende na Wakati” (Let's Go with the Times), broadcasted in Tanzania had a definite influence in relation to listener’s knowledge, attitude, and implementation of HIV/AIDS preventive measures. The authors concluded that the effects of the radio soap opera achieved a reduction in the number of sexual partners by both men and women, and an increase in the use of condoms. Some of the intervening variables that helped influence the behaviors were the self-perception of the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, self-efficacy in preventing HIV/AIDS, interpersonal communication about HIV/AIDS, and identification with and role modeling of the principal characters of the soap. These findings reinforce the premise of Entertainment-education, which is the idea that individuals learn behavior by observing role models, particularly in the mass media, since influence and imitation are expected outcomes of the strategy (Waisbord, 2001).

Papa et. al. (2000) investigated the effects of “Tinka Tinka Sukh” (Happiness Lies in Small Pleasures) on its audience in India. “Tinka Tinka Sukh” was an entertainment-education radio soap opera broadcasted by All India Radio in 1996-1997. Some of the educational themes encountered in this soap opera were gender equality, dowry related issues, family size, and HIV prevention, among others. Through listeners’ interview survey data and content analysis of listeners’ letters, the researchers concluded that conversation about the education theme presented in the soap opera is important in creating an environment for learning and it may lead to community action and social change.

However, many researchers question the effectiveness of entertainment-education in changing behavior. Sherry (1997) analyzing the pro-social soap opera experiments, found scarce support for the success of those attempts.
His conclusions affirm that most evaluations of the entertainment-education experiments are limited and do not support claims of behavioral effects. Another criticism of the entertainment-education model is that it tends to ignore certain cultural, behavioral patterns that sometimes extrapolate the individual decision-making process, but that relate to the social context (Yoder, Horner, & Chirva, 1996). Singhal & Rogers (2000) have also addressed those claims as previously discussed; the emphasis of entertainment-education is no longer on the individual behavior change, because of the various circumstantial factors involved. Singhal & Rogers (1988) have also acknowledged that an “entertainment-education strategy is much more effective in creating knowledge of an issue than changing the behavior regarding this issue”.

Another problem encountered by the entertainment-education strategy evaluation is the difficulty in isolating the amount of behavior change that can be attributed to the specific entertainment-education message, whether in a television or radio soap opera, or any other medium. Yoder, Horner, & Chirva (1996) identified this problem in their follow up evaluation of a radio soap opera in Zambia addressing HIV prevention. Their results show that behavior changes are most likely due to previous exposure to HIV/AIDS information, or other factors such as interpersonal beliefs or moral values.

The “Archie Bunker effect”, the degree to which certain audience individuals identify with negative role models in the media, is also cited in the literature as criticism of entertainment-education (Sherry, 1997). Archie Bunker is the protagonist of “All in the Family”, a sitcom broadcast by CBS in 1971. The character is a very prejudiced but funny man, who uses a lot of racial slurs, and demeaning remarks. The intention of the show’s creator is to call the attention to bigotry. However, Vidmar & Rokeach (1974) found that “All in the Family” reinforces, instead of reduces racial and ethnic prejudice among already prejudiced viewers. Singhal & Rogers (1999) agree that this effect is observed in many entertainment-education productions; however, they contend that it is only in a small percentage of the audience.

Ethical considerations also surfaced in the studies of entertainment-education (Papa, et. al., 2000; Brown & Singhal, 1993; Singhal & Rogers, 1999). Questions are raised about who decides what pro-social messages to include in entertainment, and what/whose values should be observed. Another concern would be with the responsibility of the programmers about the changes that they are bringing for viewers and society with entertainment productions. Collaboration and discussion among all stakeholders involved, producers, researchers, policy makers and audiences is the key suggested to answer these questions (Papa et. al. 2000).



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