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Soap-Opera Democracy
Alex Steffen, 3 Feb 04

Sometimes, old school's the best approach. Indian radio soap-operas are educating village women in how to participate in democracy:

"In villages across nine Indian states listeners are getting hooked on to radio shows featuring women sarpanches and journalists fighting social and economic inequities through panchayati raj institutions. In the process, listeners are spurred on to participate in local institutions of self-governance themselves...

"The project, part of PRIA’s programme for strengthening panchayati raj institutions, is supported by Ford Foundation While seven states have already completed broadcast, Himachal Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh are in the final stages of production.

"In a bid to assess the impact of the radio programme on audiences, the Delhi-based Centre for Media Studies (CMS) has carried out studies in seven states where the programme has already been broadcast. The study revealed that people found radio a potent source of knowledge on development activities and local self-government. While 16% of the people surveyed by the CMS had heard at least one episode of the programme on panchayati raj, around 16.7% had heard the programme more than once. Says B G Verghese, member, Prasar Bharati Board: “Radio has a community-building capacity if you can create interest in the context of what is being broadcast. People identify with the programme and the situation. They feel that they are sharing (their problems) with others.”

"The CMS study was based on the four critical components of reach, listenership, recall/recognition and relevance/ usage of the radio programme. More than 3,000 people were contacted to identify the 705 respondents interviewed for the study. The study also indicated that non-interactive formats and presentation style were the main hurdles in getting people hooked onto programmes. According to the study, the drama format should be given priority, as its impact was the greatest."

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Dang, they should give this notion a whirl in the 'States!

Posted by: Stefan Jones on 4 Feb 04



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