During their colonial occupation, many parts of Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean were underdeveloped; forced labor was used in mines, fields, and plantations to supply the factories of Europe. Television has been part of state-led reconstruction attempts for national development since the 1970s, albeit with no explicit policies. After the pressure to privatize and deregulate media in the 1980s, TV for development has increasingly consisted of advertiser-supported entertainment education.
After the Second North Atlantic War of 1939–1945, the Soviet bloc, the US, and the Bretton Woods institutions (the UN, the World Bank, and the IMF) initiated modernization and development projects in Europe’s former colonies. The Soviet Union promoted its centrally planned economy route to national development that included class struggle. The US and Europe promoted capitalism, class compromise, and modernization. Ignoring the fact that these countries had been set back through western interruption of their indigenous growth path, the modernization approach again focused on the diffusion of western ways, this time through science and technology. By the 1960s, this social-engineering-of-change project began to be called “economic development” (or “development” for short, as in the title of this article). A communication medium like television with audio and visual capability and two sound tracks was considered an extremely promising educational tool for low-literacy populations and a channel for their modernization.
Modes of Television Entry
Radio stations spread to developing countries in the 1930s and 1940s. The introduction of television began in the 1950s and was much more complex. The capital and operating costs of television production studios, transmission equipment, and program development were high, not to mention the costs to the consumer of receiver purchase and the need for domestic electricity. The modes of different nations’ entry to television varied according to the nature of the state, audience/market size, domestic capital, and national cultural characteristics. These modes of television entry were initiated by domestic private capital for urban entertainment, grants by foreign government (e.g., Japan) to help market expansion, sales promotion by their manufacturers (e.g., Sony), and UN- and foreign-aided demonstrations of television’s educational potential.
Competing foreign equipment manufacturers (e.g., Germany and Japan) used aid-for–trade offers from their home governments. In Sri Lanka, the Japanese donor offered free staff training and equipment (for production and transmission) in return for the right to monopolize the market for television sets. Local capitalists (television set distributors, ad agencies, etc.) took the initiative for the introduction of television in countries where there was domestic capital and openness to financing by advertising. UNESCO, the Ford Foundation, and bilateral foreign aid agencies promoted demonstrations of the audiovisual capability of the medium as an educational solution for low-literacy countries. In many cases, once the short-term financing ended, the donated equipment and facilities were transformed into a sports and entertainment channel for the middle and upper classes.
Programs and Initiatives in The 1960s and 1970s
Among the many educational radio and TV projects supported by national governments, intergovernmental organizations (UN agencies), and non-governmental organizations, the documentation on TV projects in Colombia, El Salvador, Mexico, the Ivory Coast, and Samoa is solid (UNESCO 1967; Mayo et al. 1975; Schramm 1977; McAnany et al. 1983). Beginning in 1964, the Ministry of Education and the broadcasting authority in Colombia sponsored a primary school TV program with support from USAID and the Peace Corps. Well-respected US communication researchers John K. Mayo and Jack Lyle got their start in the field by working on the evaluation research directed by Nathan Maccoby and George Comstock of Stanford University’s Institute for Communication Research. The US Congress, the Department of the Interior, and the territorial government of American Samoa funded a television project in American Samoa from 1964 to 1972. Directed by Lyle Nelson and Wilbur Schramm, this television project covered all primary and secondary grades plus preschool and some adult services.
Television was also part of the national Ministry of Education’s reform of El Salvador’s middle schools from 1969 to 1973, with substantial assistance from USAID and its evaluation sub-contractor Stanford University. Television provided program support for instruction in all major subjects in addition to curriculum reform and training for teachers and supervisors. Beginning in 1971, the French government (through UNESCO) funded a primary school TV project with an out-of-school evening adult education component in its former colony the Ivory Coast. The only major educational TV project still functioning after decades is the Mexican Telesecundaria (grades 7–9) run by its own Ministry of Education. Rather than an add-on for quality improvement, this essential delivery of middle-school classes via television across the nation provides government-recognized credit for students who cannot attend traditional middle school. USAID financed an evaluation jointly conducted by the Ministry of Education and Stanford University (Mayo et al. 1975). The role of communication in development that is clearly conceptualized, alongside a listing of theory, program, and political failures, in Hornik (1988) fully applies to television projects.
With the introduction of direct-broadcast satellites pioneered by NASA in the early 1970s, development pilot projects of varying lengths were conducted to demonstrate the capability of TV, radio, and telecommunication. In 1971, the University of the South Pacific used audio conferencing to connect its extension centers on both sides of the international dateline in four time zones. The state of Alaska also used NASA’s experimental satellite services to facilitate the delivery of rural health-care, leading to the development of a 24-hour medical network connecting every village.
The mid-1970s saw a more advanced NASA satellite demonstrate educational applications in Alaska, the Pacific, Appalachia, and India. India’s year-long (1975–1976) Satellite Instructional TV Experiment (SITE) was studied by over 150 social scientists hired by the government of India as part of NASA’s requirement for the year-long loan of four hours of satellite time. SITE research findings (Mody 1978, 1987) elaborated on the findings of projects elsewhere: more attention should have been paid to the design of educational programs. The emphasis on technology and the neglect of TV programming identified in previous projects repeated itself in SITE too: the total effort involved 3,300 person years of which 2,050 were spent on technology, hardware, or equipment: only 9 percent was dedicated to program development.
Hardware work started 5 years before transmissions started; program development started less than a year before. Nevertheless, children exposed to TV in the classroom showed significant gains in language development; programs led to enquiries for more knowledge, as measured by the greater utilization of libraries in schools where they were available. The adult education evening transmissions resulted in statistically significant gains in the knowledge of preventive health: those who watched more learned more. Small farmers and landless day laborers made up the greater part of the audience for the free community TV, resulting in no gain in general agricultural knowledge (dependent on land-holding sizes and purchasing power for irrigation, fertilizer, and pesticides). Twice as many adult men as women watched in the evenings: women were busy with domestic responsibilities after their day jobs in the fields and reported little interest in program topics. In general, the knowledge gains from free community TV were greater for those with limited access to other sources of information: lower castes among the Hindu majority, low income groups in general, and women.
In the 1980s, US foreign aid (USAID) and the then satellite cooperative INTELSAT conducted educational demonstrations of satellite capability. INTELSAT enabled the Chinese Open University to experiment with one-way video and audio applications; Ireland and Jordan to exchange university courses; and hospitals in Latin America and Miami, and Uganda, Kenya, and Canada, to do telemedicine.
Privatization and Entertainment Education Since The 1980s
Until the 1980s, TV was owned and operated in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean by the state, except for Latin America, which had fallen under US commercial influence after its independence from European colonizers. The few applications of television for development were expensive and state-financed, and hence constituted additional demands on already overstretched state budgets. As developing countries struggled with spiraling oil costs, budget deficits, and a world economic slowdown, the US, western Europe, and Japan pushed them to open up national firms (including state broadcasting monopolies) to private and foreign investment. Simultaneously, domestic lobbies within developing countries were advocating the US model of advertising-based radio and TV ownership so coverage could expand beyond the capital city. US film and TV exports increased nearly five times. State-produced symbolic public service TV programs on agriculture, health, and education with small audience sizes disappeared as large-audience entertainment financed by advertisers became more visible, some imported and some domestic.
A new entrant on the post-1980s scene was the “educational entertainment” dramatic serial, which took off from Miguel Sabido’s pioneering “social content communication methodology” that was made famous in successful family planning serial dramas in Mexico (Singhal et al. 2004). Promoted by David Poindexter of the US Methodist Church’s Population Communication International, “entertainment education” serials in radio, TV, and multiple media have addressed AIDS and sexual issues in South Africa (e.g., Soul City), India (e.g., the BBC World Service Trust’s collaborative production of Vijay Detective), Kenya (e.g., Heart and Soul, Come With Me), Tanzania (e.g., Let’s Go with the Times) and the Philippines (e.g., Interweaving Lives). Foreign aid and technical assistance have been provided by the US and European countries.
The balance between audience enhancement and education is delicate: in the case of We The People in India, the strong focus on gender equality had to be diluted by episode 13 in light of opposition from audience and advertisers. Thus, even advocates acknowledge that the “educational” component of these admittedly entertaining shows is highly variable, ranging from a few lines of dialogue, to a general do-good theme, to a strongly targeted focus. It has been found that constant audience research is required to monitor whether a negative role model is being misperceived as a heroine for emulation by some.
The instructional design model of the 1960s and 1970s for specific educational audiences, which was so expensive to implement and was infrequently used outside short-lived, aidfinanced projects, has given way to another educational model initiated by foreign aid that is more suited to the large-audience needs of an advertiser-financed media system. Entertainment education has actually been credited with helping the state broadcaster to move from state public service ownership to a commercially competitive operator in India.
Television for development in the early 21st century is promoting modernization via the marketplace. Audience-specific educational media interventions are limited to community radio initiatives, where they exist.
- Hornik, R. C. (1988). Development communication: Information, agriculture and nutrition in the third world. New York: Longman.
- Mayo, J., McAnany, E., & Klees, S. (1975). The Mexican Telesecunadaria: A cost-effectiveness analysis. Instructional Science, 4, 193–236.
- McAnany, E., Oliveira, J. B., Stone, J., & Orivel, F. (1983). Distance education: evaluating new approaches in education for developing countries. Evaluation in Education, International Series 6(3), 97–176.
- Mody, B. (1978). Lessons from the Indian satellite experiment. Educational Broadcasting International (September), 117–120. At https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ190930.
- Mody, B. (1987). Contextual analysis of the adoption of a communication technology: The case of satellites in India. Telematics and Informatics, 4(2), 151–158.
- Schramm, W. (1977). Big media, little media: Tools and techniques for instruction. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Singhal, A. (ed.) (2004). Entertainment, education and social change. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
- UNESCO (1967). New educational media in action: Case studies for planners, vols. I, III. Paris: International Institute for Educational Planning.
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