Launched in 1994, the Soul City television drama series is part of a multimedia health promotion and social change project by the Soul City Institute for Health and Development Communication (SC IHDC). Using the edutainment strategy, the television series deals with a range of health and development issues with the aim to empower audiences to make healthy choices - both as individuals and as communities. The television series is supported by radio, print, and advocacy campaigns designed to keep people talking about the issues raised in the drama.
Communication Strategies: 

According to Soul City, the television series has been designed to affect the individual, the community, and the socio-political context. It is mainly intended for adults, with other media in the campaign (i.e. Soul Buddyz) designed for younger audiences.

The prime time television series comprises 13 one hour episodes (Series 1-3 were half hours). The series is broadcast on South Africa's television station (SABC 1) and has been aired in many parts of Africa as well as Latin America, the Caribbean, and South East Asia. The drama is supported by the following other mediums:

  • A daily radio drama comprising 45 fifteen minute episodes, is broadcast on all nine SABC regional radio stations (in nine of South Africa’s official languages), as well as many community radio stations.
  • Three full colour booklets are produced per series, which are serialised in newspapers throughout South Africa in synergy with the electronic media. At the end of the serialisation they are also distributed through clinics and other government distribution channels, non-governmental and community-based organisations, businesses, and educational facilities. At least 3 million booklets are distributed per series. The booklets deal with the topics dealt with in the series in greater detail and can be kept by readers for future reference.
  • An advertising/publicity campaign is designed to keeps people talking and thinking about Soul City.
  • An advocacy campaign is mounted around one of the major topics that address the broader structural issues that present barriers to change.
  • Issues dealt with in each series:

    • Series 1 – broadcast in 1994: The first series dealt with mother and child health including HIV/AIDS, immunisation, breastfeeding, diarrhoea and dehydration, maternal health, acute respiratory illness, paraffin poisoning, and burns.
    • Series 2 – broadcast in 1996: This series covered HIV/AIDS, housing and land issues, and TB and smoking.
    • Series 3 – broadcast in 1997: This series dealt with HIV/AIDS, household energy, violence, and alcohol misuse.
    • Series 4 – broadcast in 1999: Issues like HIV/AIDS, personal finance, hypertension, and violence against women were covered.
    • Series 5 – broadcast in 2001: This series looked at HIV/AIDS, small business development, rape, and disability.
    • Series 6 – broadcast in 2003: This series dealt with HIV/AIDS, depression, asthma, adult education, and literacy.
    • Series 7 - 2005: This series dealt with volunteerism/service, equity in the South African health system, HIV/AIDS and treatment, masculinity/manhood, and cancer of the cervix.
    • Series 7B - 2006: HIV/AIDS, crime and responsibility, organ donation, adoption formed part of this series.
    • Series 8 - 2007: This series was termed "Soul City Its Real" and focused on HIV and testing, multiple concurrent partnerships, violence against women, and alcohol abuse.
    • Series 9 - 2008: This season formed part of the "OneLove Campaign", a regional campaign to raise awareness about the link between multiple concurrent partnerships and HIV infection.
    • Series 10 - 2009: This series looks at the issue of alcohol abuse and violence and forms part of the Phuza Wiza campaign, a national campaign that encourages South Africans to change the way they drink.

    Click here for more information on each series on the Soul City website.

    Using an edutainment strategy, Soul City estimates that the television series reaches more than 16 million South Africans. All Soul City series are developed through a rigorous formative research process. This involves consulting both audiences and experts. All materials are thoroughly tested with audiences to ensure that the materials are effective. Through formative research the lived experiences and voices of the communities are captured, giving the materials resonance and credibility. Soul City outlines the following steps as key to producing the television drama:

    • Step one: Consulting widely with experts and key stakeholders on the topic issues. This includes government as well as civil society which include non-governmental and community-based organisations, activists, and academics.
    • Step two: Consulting audience members about what they know, their concerns, their attitudes to the issue and the barriers that exist to positive change.
    • Step three: Role players and experts are brought together. They are presented with the findings from the first two steps. They then help define the issues to be included in the edutainment product and the way in which these issues will be dealt with.
    • Step four: A message brief that defines these messages is produced. This forms the blueprint for the creative team (producers, directors and scriptwriters) to work off in developing the TV and radio dramas.
    • Step five: The creative team use the message brief to integrate the issues into the entertainment vehicle. This is done in a creative workshop where the creative team is briefed and brainstorms how best to do this.
    • Step six: A draft outline is produced. This is tested with the experts, role players, and audience members. After this, full scripts are produced.
    • Step seven: The scripts go through a writing and testing process until the issues have been well integrated while ensuring the product maintains its entertainment value.
    • Step eight: The material is produced, broadcast, printed and distributed.
    • Step nine: The materials are evaluated. Lessons learned are integrated into future productions.
Development Issues: 

HIV/AIDS, Health, Gender, Tobacco, Tuberculosis, Violence against Women, Economic Development, Education, Children, Rights, Alcohol Abuse.

Key Points: 

The Soul City Institute for Health and Development Communication (SC IHDC) is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) established in 1992. The organisation draws on an edutainment model that is based on a thorough research process designed to engage mass audiences in prime time television and radio dramas that explore many health and development issues.

Partner Text: 

Core funding provided by British Petroleum (BP), the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the United Kingdom (UK) Department for International Development (DFID), the Republic of South Africa's Department of Health and Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), Development Cooperation Ireland, De Beers, Pepfar, and the Royal Netherlands Embassy.


A range of Soul City programme documents; and the SC IHDC website and Soul City website on September 2 2010.