Entertainment Goes Global: American Television Abroad

friends300American Television Abroad is an Entertainment Goes Global program, run by the Lear Center’s Hollywood, Health & Society project, exploring the effectiveness of health messages in American soap operas and comedies in foreign countries, including India, the Phillipines, and Egypt. Done in collaboration with Population Communications International and communications scholars at Ohio University and the University of New Mexico, the first year of this program was funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The project examined how audiences in India process health-related messages in U.S.-produced television programs. One part of the CDC’s Global AIDS Program called MARCH (Modeling and Reinforcement to Combat AIDS) needed to know whether program planners could adapt programs produced elsewhere for health messaging or if the programs had to reflect the exact settings, customs, practices, and personalities of the target audience. This report uses qualitiative research methods to ascertain how TV audiences in India responded to health issues in an episode of The Bold and the Beautiful:

Everett M. Rogers. (2004) “Indian Audience Interpretations of Health-Related Content in The Bold and the BeautifulGazette Vol 66 (5) pp. 437-458. Read the abstract.

A second publication compared Indian and American audiences’ interpretation of the Hollywood sitcom Friends. The article is guided buy Olson’s narrative transparency theory, which posits transparency as ‘the capability of certain texts to seem familiar regardless of their origin, to seem a part of one’s own culture, even though they have been crafted elsewhere’. Thirty-seven regular viewers of Friends in India and 35 from the US were interviewed personally and in focus groups. Indian viewers questioned the truth-value of the content to conclude that Friends portrayed a universal American culture that is completely different from an Indian standpoint. These interpretation made the media text opaque, and the Indian audience members rejected the safe sex message discussed in the episode studied. The American audience found Friends overly exaggerated, but safe sex and sexuality messages as somewhat more cullturally proximate:

Ketan S. Chitnis, Avinash Thombre, (Late) Everett M. Rogers, Arvind Singhal and Ami Sengupta. (2006) “(Dis)similar Readings: Indian and American Audiences’ Interpretation of FriendsInternational Communication Gazette Vol 68(2) pp. 131-145.