Shelburne, VT, – September 12, 2002 – It is no accident that for 25 years soap operas have been a vehicle for social change around the world. To mark the 25th anniversary of promoting social change by broadcasting hugely popular television and radio serials, Miguel Sabido and David Poindexter, of the Population Media Center (PMC), reunited in Mexico City last week in celebration of past achievements through their programs in countries such as Mexico, Tanzania, and India. Sabido and Poindexter also met to discuss works in progress, including countries throughout Africa. The reunion included other big names in the field of pro-social entertainment, such as Population Media Center President William Ryerson, Michael Cody of the Norman Lear Center, and World Entertainment Education Director Sergio Alarcon.
Poindexter first met Sabido in 1977. Sabido, who was Vice President of Research at Televisa at the time, was giving a lecture on telenovelas (Mexican soap operas) and their potential for creating social change. The meeting was to mark the beginning of the pair’s crusade against overpopulation, AIDS, and low status of women. Sabido’s first telenovela promoting family planning in Mexico, Acompañame, is credited with increasing calls to Mexico’s family planning information center (CONAPO) from zero to an average of 500 a month, increasing contraceptive sales by 23 percent in one year, increasing family planning clinic enrollment by 33 percent, and encouraging over 2,000 women to register as volunteer workers in the family planning program.
Currently, the two PMC leaders are focusing their efforts on various African countries. Upcoming activity is scheduled in Swaziland, Mali, Kenya, Sudan, and Nigeria—to name a few. Two radio serials created by scriptwriters from the National Theater of Ethiopia and the University of Addis Ababa are currently on the air in Ethiopia, where there are estimated to be over three million HIV/AIDS carriers. Poindexter feels that “as a result of these broadcasts, in a few years we will see enormous positive change in Ethiopia.”
Rather than simply informing people about HIV or AIDS through direct messages, role modeling in popular soap operas has and is moving audiences to change patterns of behavior in pro-social ways. With twenty-five years of success to their credit Sabido and Poindexter are continuing their work through PMC in countries around the world.
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