Doing Television

Why Use Television for HIV/AIDS Education?

Since television has made such a deep impact on the public over the past few decades, it is a prime tool for HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns. The power of the media’s effect on public opinions has been proven many times over throughout the course of television history. Because television is able to stimulate both visual and auditory senses, viewers often find themselves enraptured by what they are being shown, devoting their full attention to the program. Television has the ability to update and inspire, thus working as a potential spark for action. It must be realized, however, that although in many continents television has become a regular household item, there remain many countries today where televisions are a scarce commodity.


    ✓ In the western world, television is a primary source of entertainment, with millions of viewers watching at every hour.
    ✓ Television holds much influence over populations, using visual information as a means of reporting on current matters
    ✓ Much creative liberty can be taken with a television show, allowing for important themes and messages to be spread in an engaging manner


    x The cost of producing a television show is most often very expensive and requires a lot of time and effort
    x Low-income families and communities as well as areas where television has not yet been introduced will have little to no access to television programming
    x Broadcasting networks may have a hard time accepting new proposals for television shows

Television Show Genres

Television shows are often designed to appeal to very specific audiences. Understanding how a certain demographic will respond to various dramatized situations and having a thorough knowledge of cultural norms are keys for developing programming. Characters in a show are usually intended to have characteristics with which the viewer can identify. Here are some of the television show genres:

  • Sitcoms: Sitcoms, or “situation comedies”, are the most common form of television broadcast and focus on scenarios in which a reaction from a character is imminent.
  • Game Shows: Game shows involve participants who must play a game, such as answer questions of trivia or overcome obstacles, in order to win a prize.
  • Reality T.V.: Reality television is a recent trend that attempts to represent real people in real life. Without the use of scripts, reality T.V. relies on the candidness of the actors.
  • Documentary: Documentaries are informative programs that present found research to the public.
  • Soap Opera/Drama: Soap operas are highly dramatized television shows that often focus on the darker side of human nature.

Extra reading:
1. "How are TV and Film Addressing the Epidemic?" (looking at Hollywood films, popular TV shows, and some documentaries in the United States)
2. "Shuga's Sweet Success" (looking at MTV's popular youth drama set in Nairobi, Kenya)

Making a Television Program

Pre-Production and Production

The development of a television program is an intricate step-by-step process that takes a strong and organized team as well as time and money. Below is a general break down of the processes involved in the creation of a T.V. show:

Developing an Idea

The first step in the making of a television program is to have a founding idea. Coming up with a concept for a show depends on the audience one wishes to address, the content one wishes to present to the audience, and the appropriate genre for the content. When delivering messages about HIV/AIDS education, it is important that culture-specific content is adhered to and that any information divulged is both current and factual.

Once the idea has been developed, it is wise to put it into writing. Presenting a formal and thoroughly outlined proposal to a television company will have a greater chance of being put into production.

Scripts and Actors

The script is plausibly the most important part of the televised program. The script will draw viewers in by introducing the plot, the characters, the dilemmas, and the solutions. Having a well-written script that is culture- and language-specific is key to bringing in an audience. While writing the script, it is important to keep in mind the length of the program, whether or not the program will be a series, the number of actors required, the character development that will take place, and the messages and themes that will be delivered to the public. It is a good idea to lay out future ideas when developing a script for a television program.

Contacting Television Broadcast Stations

There are different kinds of television broadcast stations which include state-owned, publicly-funded, and private television companies and independent production companies and multimedia corporations. Local and university/college stations tend to be smaller and lesser known, but are more likely to be open to broadcasting new television program proposals as there are fewer regulations they are forced to follow. Many local cable companies offer a “public access” channel, which allows for members of the public to broadcast their own television show ideas. Contacting one’s local cable network to ask about starting a show is a helpful way of receiving tips and tricks from people who know the business. Broadcast networks that specialize in informative and political television shows are also more likely to want to air a show based around HIV/AIDS education. Being conscious of networks’ goals and objectives for pleasing the audience will help to locate the right network for the program.

It is the executive producer that is in charge of program development, budget, and administrative procedures and therefore is likely the most knowledgeable person to contact when putting forward a new idea.

Creating a Budget

The cost of developing a television show is very high and makes creating a budget mandatory. Applying for government grants or funding from various sources can help to cover the cost of production. Well-established television stations and multimedia corporations are usually able to cover the expenses of television show production because of advertisements.

Keep in mind that it is the content of a program that will make it a success and not the amount of money that is put into it. Using local or university/college stations to broadcast a show will likely cut down the cost of production and will serve as a great starting point for the television program.

The Team

Once the basics of the show have been set up, the executive producer will employ a team to carry out the production process. A producer will oversee pre-production details such as assigning a director, set designer, costume designer, etc. Members of the team must work in unison and ensure good communication so that filming will run smoothly.

Each member of the team will have a thorough knowledge of their own field and can be counted on for having an expertise with the technicalities that are involved with the filming such as makeup, lighting, equipment, and editing.

  Spotlight on an African TV training workshop:
  Check out a 2005 NAFTI/UNESCO report on a workshop that brought together and trained young TV producers   from Ghana, Gambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Swaziland, Lesotho, and Namibia on ways to reduce stigma and          discrimination.

Once the Show Has Been Aired

After pre-production and production, the show can be aired to the public. There are many ways in which a show can be kept alive after is has been aired:

  • Serial programming in which a plot is developed over more than one episode attracts viewers because the storyline never comes to a complete finish. Interesting plot twists, as well as new dilemmas, can build the show’s substance and ensure that viewers tune in the next time the show is televised.
  • Hardcopies of the television show (on DVD or VHS) can be created and distributed to libraries, community centers, schools, or clinics. These centers can air the show during special events or lend them out to people who wish to watch the program.
  • Airing the show over the Internet can result in a wider audience and allow for the show to be watched over and over.
Incorporating Multiple Art Methodologies
Blending various art forms can have a powerful impact on the project at hand, as well as enhance the final product. Some art forms that can be incorporated with television include:

  • Video Documentary
  • Collaborative Video

*Television can provide coverage on many different art methodologies*

World Wide Web: Existing HIV/AIDS Television Series

The Age of AIDS (TV documentary from the US). (1995-2007). Retrieved July 2007, from

Bai Xing (soap opera from China). (2005-2006). Retrieved September 2009, from

CBC–Tsepong: A Clinic Called Hope (TV special from Canada). (2007). Retrieved July 2007, from

Live Up: The Show (TV program from the Carribean). (2007). Retrieved August 2007, from

Love as a Test (soap opera in Kyrgyzstan). Retrieved January 2011, from

Sesame Street South Africa (children's TV program). Retrieved November 2009, from

Sida dans la Cité (soap opera in Côte d'Ivoire). Retrieved January 2011, from

Think Positive: The Asian Face of HIV/AIDS (TV productions from 11 countries). (2007). Retrieved July 2007, from

Television and Social Change Bibliography

AIDS Action (1987-2006) Retrieved July 2007, from

Chambers, Catherine. (2001). Behind Media: Television. Chicago: Heinemann Library

Rowlands, Avril. (1978). Script Continuity and the Production Secretary in Film and TV. New York: Focal Press Limited