The concept of using entertainment to impart education and drive social change is not a new one but with growing and competing media platforms introducing new content more frequently than before, the ‘edutainment’ frenzy has escalated off late. And new research suggests that this edutainment can indeed drive social change.

In the study, Abhijit Banerjee and others examine the impact of MTV Shuga, a Nigerian television show aimed at providing information about HIV/AIDS and changing attitudes and behaviours related to the disease. To do this, the authors organized special screenings before the show’s release in community centres and schools in seven towns while in other similar locations, they organized a screening of another show which did not contain any educational content. They find that the educational show largely worked. Young viewers who were exposed to MTV Shuga were less likely to have concurrent sexual partners. They were also twice as likely to get tested for HIV eight months after watching the show compared to those who watched the non-educational show. They also find that reductions in sexually transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia, among women. All these effects were the strongest among the viewers who reported being the most involved in the show’s narrative

However, the authors did not find any significant change in attitude towards condom use, despite that being a prominent message in MTV Shuga. One possible explanation could be the strong cultural resistance to condoms in the Nigerian context, which the show failed to overcome. Despite this, the authors argue that the overriding message of the results are that people react to the messages they see on TV. This could have important implications for the use of ‘edutainment’ methods by policymakers.

Also read: The entertaining way to behavioural change: Fighting HIV with MTV

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