"MTV Shuga is a ground-breaking TV show that portrays the lives and loves of a group of young people. Seamlessly interwoven into the storylines are vital messages related to HIV and a wide range of other sexual health messages….Alongside the TV series is a substantial mass-media campaign, which reaches our audience at all the points where they interact, improving their access to vital sexual and reproductive health messaging and directing them to the health services they need." Georgia Arnold, The MTV Staying Alive Foundation[1]

Developed by the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, MTV Shuga is an initiative that combines entertainment media, social media, print media, mobile (SMS and interactive voice response [IVR]), and live performance, bringing to the attention of young people the social complexities of negotiating safer sexual and lifestyle decisions.  The aim is to improve the quality of life and health of people in African countries with an HIV-burdened population by empowering individuals with the agency to protect themselves and others from sexually transmitted infections (STIs), particularly HIV/AIDS, such as by getting tested for HIV.

This paper will seek to explore how this project in all of its expressions has been able to incorporate inclusivity and participation among its strategies for reaching adolescents and young people and how its cross-sectoral (HIV prevention, family planning - FP, and sexual and reproductive health - SRH) behaviour change communication (BCC) messages are extended through scalable multi-media channels. It will highlight the importance of integrated themes, demand creation, dialogic opportunities, and strong partnerships.  It will also look at how deepening the approach to social media use, complementing television and radio entertainment-education (EE) programming, attracts a young audience and extends upward the age of interest, addressing the lifecycle approach through 360-degree media access.  As an example, media reach includes a total of over 42 million social media interactions – Tweets, YouTube views, website visits, comments, Instagram views, etc. - and, for the season that began in October 2015, pan-African viewership through more than 150 broadcasters. Results from several studies on the impact of BCC messaging are included. The paper concludes with a summary of thirteen "Lessons Learned" through the evolution of the MTV Shuga EE project throughout the continent of Africa.

Background

MTV Shuga was first produced for television in Kenya by the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, starting in 2009, in partnership with MTV Base Africa, a 24-hour music and general entertainment channel, and a property of Viacom International Media Networks. The MTV Staying Alive Foundation is an international content-producing and grant-giving organisation dedicated to stopping the spread of HIV among young people.[2] Since 2005, it has been both: 1) finding and funding young leaders who are tackling the HIV epidemic in their own communities and 2) creating and distributing HIV-prevention content. The MTV Shuga initiative is an extension of the ongoing content production, which includes documentaries, short broadcast messages, and a full-length feature film. The series was first produced in Kenya for several years and then in Nigeria (beginning with broadcast in December 2013). The MTV Staying Alive Foundation partnered with governments through national AIDS organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and increased distribution demand for broadcast, including airing the series on both television and then radio internationally.  MTV Shuga’s fourth season débuted in Lagos, Nigeria, September of 2015, with a red carpet opening attended by partners, the public, youth Peer Educators, and media and social media reporters.

Radio was added to complement the second series in Kenya in 2011. It was broadcast in English, Swahili, and French. Shuga Naiga Radio was launched in June 2012 to complement the Nigeria TV series. Print media in the form of comics were added, and, as both internet access and mobile access have increased, extensive use of social media now forms a large part of the strategic two-way communication for audiences. Additional two-way exchange is fostered by face-to-face contact through Peer Educators, both at festivals and at smaller screenings of the series. MTV Staying Alive has also fostered NGO-audience connections, such as a telephone helpline in Nigeria and academic research and peer educator materials development in South Africa. (See the "How Are the Behaviour Change Objectives Achieved?" section for more.)

Context

Prompted by high rates of HIV among young people that continued to rise when rates in other populations were remaining steady or falling, following the programme debut in Kenya in 2009, the MTV Shuga initiative has expanded broadcasting to more than 70 countries and was filmed in Nigeria for the 2013/14 and 2015/16 seasons. In 2014, Nigeria had the second highest rate of HIV in Africa. “With only 5 per cent of the world’s population, Eastern and Southern Africa is home to half the world’s population living with HIV. Today the region continues to be the epicentre of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, with 48 per cent of the world’s new HIV infections among adults, 55 per cent among children, and 48 per cent of AIDS-related deaths.”(2013)[3]  Girls and young women are disproportionately affected by HIV, often appearing to have been infected by men a number of years older, implying situations of transactional relationships or abuse. “There were 250,000 …new HIV infections among adolescents in 2013, two thirds of which were among adolescent girls…. ‘Globally, two thirds of all new infections among adolescents were among adolescent girls. This is a moral injustice….’ Michel Sidibé, Executive Director, UNAIDS”[4]

 

Objectives of the MTV Shuga Series

As stated in MTV’s Shuga: What we have achieved 07.2014[5] brochure, the project objectives are to:

  1. heighten awareness and foster improved communication about HIV, FP, and SRH among youth; and
  2. address the lack of youth-focused, targeted BCC campaigns.

According to the MTV Staying Alive Foundation:The complex relationships between the characters not only entertain, they serve to highlight important themes related to sexual and reproductive health…Ultimately, MTV Shuga examines the ramifications of sexual decisions on the lives of young people, their partners, and their loved ones...”[6] The seven specific behaviour change objectives are the following: 1) consistent and correct condom use; 2) empowerment to negotiate safe sex; 3) HIV testing after risky exposure; 4) positive attitudes towards people living with HIV; 5) contraceptive use in one’s last sexual encounter; 6) knowledge of three different forms of contraception; and 7) desire to use forms other than condoms. The four MTV Shuga seasons incorporate the following topics: transactional sex, HIV testing, multiple partners, negotiating safe sex, supporting victims of gender-based violence (GBV), living with HIV, HIV stigmatisation, HIV disclosure, supporting friends living with HIV, rape in a relationship, abortion (dangers of traditional medicine), negotiating safe sex, unplanned pregnancy, controlling a relationship, choosing when to have sex, contraceptive use, sexual grooming, and being born with HIV.

A few examples of characters that represent working through behaviours on a number of issues dealt with in MTV Shuga 4 are: Weki is a young man born with HIV who must learn to balance coming of age, popularity, disclosure, and stigma. Bongi, a character described as moving from South Africa to Lagos, is outspoken with friends, especially on the dangers of dating older men, while finding her way with a dream of becoming a singer. Sophie, a character from season 3 who feared being HIV positive, is, in season 4, working at a call centre to give others her thoughts about protecting themselves from HIV and getting tested, and, while she is now portrayed as a having grown into a working woman, she has a struggle with the dark side of the man she loves.

 

How Are the Behaviour Change Objectives Achieved? 

Multi-Media Platforms for Maximizing Influence, Reach and Access 

  • Educational Entertainment (Edu-tainment) Television      

The behaviour change impact of EE media programmes is well established. "TV plays an important role in introducing ideas in societies where literacy is relatively low and social norms discourage novel ideas, especially related to stigmatized behaviors."[7] Shuga scripts, work by "getting inside the heads of its viewers, and it knows that didacticism rarely works, especially when the viewers are bright, educated, and self-aware….The show's genius is in managing to weave all the key issues of HIV prevention - such as the stigma of HIV testing, the risk of having multiple or concurrent partners, stigma of living with HIV, and condom use - without coming across like a preachy public service broadcast."[8] Story ideas were broadened to align with the shifting nature of the audience, originally 15- to 24-year-olds, as the programme expanded to pan-African and then international audiences. (See the Co-Development of Media Content section below.) - LESSON 1: Given the demonstrated positive impact of edutainment media, it is important to focus attention on how to take it to scale with multiple strategies to maximise reach and access, e.g., no-cost offer of programmes to third-party broadcasters; selection of broadcast times to match viewer density for age target; placement on web platforms to facilitate on-demand viewing; and engagement of celebrities in the media content.

  • Converting Edu-tainment TV Content for Radio Platform

For young people in rural and peri-urban areas, a radio programme was created to expand the scope and impact of and to complement the TV series, using the same objectives and BCC messages as the TV drama. In the original series, developed in Kenya, the 12 episodes were “followed by two 25-minute pre-recorded magazine shows which further explored the topics covered with young people, experts from the countries and global and national cooperating partners….”[9] The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) contributed to expanding the reach of MTV Shuga through radio broadcasting. Radio project funding, beginning in season 3, was from UNICEF and the US President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Partnership for an HIV-Free Generation, with country governments, partners, and young people collaborating.
- LESSON 2:  Edu-tainment programmes developed for TV can broaden their reach to rural areas with low TV access by using the same objectives, BCC content, and messages and adapting the delivery for use on Radio platforms.

  • Third Party Broadcasters, Broadcast Placement and View on Demand

To ensure maximum reach, the TV and radio broadcasters simply request to air the shows, resulting in the airing of the 2015 series on 158 channels.[10]   MTV Shuga is broadcast in the evenings on MTV channels, where possible, to increase youth viewing availability. In 2014, this radio programming was featured on the Afrinolly app, in addition to airing on Nigerian FM stations, expanding the reach of its drama through radio in an effort to grow from the estimated 2012 listening audience of 45 million.[11] Extending to digital platforms used by young people - for example, via YouTube, social media, and iRoko, a web platform that provides paid-for Nigerian films on-demand - means that MTV Shuga may be viewed on a variety of platforms. Digital views for the first month of the 2015 season totalled approximately a half million views.

  • Social Media Interactivity 

Social media sites used for one-way posting of MTV Shuga programmes and promotion and for two-way or interactive engagement include, among others: Twitter - used with hashtags; Facebook; Instagram; several websites; and the YouTube video site mentioned earlier. The MTV Staying Alive Foundation has its own manager of social media.

Social media interactivity examples are included throughout this analysis. (See the description of auditions and voting in the interactive engagement section and the description of integrating social media into events in both the Peer Educators section and the tours section, all of which integrate social media and face-to-face interaction and stem from the core EE storylines and characters.) Examples of promotional use include online availability of: MTV Shuga music videos and "behind the scenes"[12] videos; episodes of the TV drama; character profile and issues discussions by TV actors; interviews with radio character actors; videos called "confessions" (including Skype contact names for the characters so that viewers can access their messages via Skype postings); and "fun bits" films generating engagement with characters. These online access points have comments sections as an opportunity for dialogue.

Two-way engagement through social media is especially key to integrating the face-to-face interpersonal engagement at festivals and peer-led screenings. For example, at the festivals, "selfies" from a photo booth - in which attendees can write their message on a whiteboard and have their photo taken and then posted with the hashtag #‎Shugatour - are uploaded on MTV Shuga Facebook & Instagram pages.
- LESSON 3: Social media can be used as a one-way or promotional toolset and as a two-way or an interactive audience engagement toolset. In pushing the toolsets for maximum strategic engagement, the lines between one-way and two-way are often overlapping.

  • Involving Champions Who Are Iconic in the Minds of 15- to 24-year-olds  

Those involved in the drama and music related to the MTV Shuga initiative are strategically selected to broaden its popularity and to bring it into the media/public eye with frequency by involving major celebrities - both actors and musicians - and by holding local auditions to engage aspiring actors - some of whom later gain celebrity status, as was the situation for Oscar winner Lupita Nyong'o, whose rise from local popularity began in major role in MTV Shuga, leading to her film star status. By building opportunities for media exposure and by choosing champions, then having them deliver BCC messaging outside the drama as well as in character, the initiative builds audiences, increases their desire to affiliate with characters, and leverages that affiliation to increase message receptivity.

Public launch ceremonies with celebrities and officials take place in the country of production and are promoted in news and online media (for example: Jarmzone.com). This kind of public event uses the power and reach of the daily press to promote the programme name and bring additional viewers to its TV and radio broadcasts, as well as involving them in online and social media activity.

The close affiliation of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation with MTV Base Africa both brings MTV Shuga audiences to expect popular music as a draw in the series and gives the Foundation access to the most current musical trends and stars, part of the MTV appeal for 15- to 24-year-olds. Music created for the initiative is freely available to television and radio broadcasters. - LESSON 4: The use of celebrities and especially rising local stars is a good strategy for building audiences, increasing the desire of viewers to affiliate with the characters and, by extension, increasing message receptivity and therefore their inclusion in programme content is an important consideration.

 

 Ensuring Programme Relevance through Co-development of Media Content 

The content and storyline for Shuga Radio and the TV scripts were written and created through participation of young people from countries in the region. Scripts are developed through workshops involving youth in order to increase the authenticity of script language and content, as well as to train those involved in the writing process for greater sustainability of skills and to engage them as audience members who alert their social networks through MTV Shuga social media interaction.  Thus, the content and storyline for both Shuga Radio and for the TV series are created and written by young people, primarily from partnering NGOs.  For example, in the second season of the radio programming, 30 young people from Cameroon, DR Congo, Kenya, Tanzania, Lesotho, and South Africa were trained in a workshop hosted by Question Media Group with support from UNICEF.[13]  In 2014, Nigeria’s Radio Shuga Naija partnered with NGOs to increase the participation of youth, including those who are HIV positive, to create a team of 50 young people to identify current concerns and social trends affecting sexual and reproductive health and rights in local situations.
- LESSON 5: Co-development of media content with members of the intended audience is valuable for increasing authenticity and appropriateness of script language and content, including most current concerns and trends.

  • Maintaining Local Relevance for a Multi-Country Audience  According to the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, the organisation took particular care to involve local talent (in this case Nigerians) at all levels. Thus, the series is done on location (writers’ workshops involving youth and NGO partners,  consultation on broadcast standards as applied to scripted contents, casting, filming, etc.) with the Nigerian production team. Post-production is handled separately by the MTV Staying Alive post-production staff. Managing the shift from Kenya to Nigeria, while trying to maintain a pan-African audience - including a Kenyan audience - involved planning so as to: prepare audiences for the shift, gain audience loyalty in Nigeria, and maintain it in Kenya.  A Nigerian character was included in the final Kenya series, while a Kenyan character remained in the Nigeria series. Staff learned from audience response in Kenya that a bigger role for Kenyans would help with Kenya’s loss of ownership of the programme. Adding Ghanaians and a South African as characters in the series is likely increasing pan-African viewership.
    - LESSON 6:  Audience affiliation with characters, their loyalty to the show, and consequent receptivity to the BCC messaging embedded in these characters' roles must be given consideration in decisionmaking processes on programme content and changes. Establishing mechanisms for feedback of this nature must therefore be embedded in the programme development process.
  • Maintaining Acceptability for a Multi-Country Audience  Keeping characters and behaviours appropriate for a local context was vital for the series as it moved production to Nigeria. For example, adapting characters and their behaviours to Nigerian social norms was important for audience affiliation with characters and audience sympathies for their social and behavioural dilemmas. The MTV Staying Alive Foundation has included in its options for discussing challenging and sensitive subjects both print (comic book) and social media channels, demonstrating further critical reason to use a 360-degree campaign strategy.
    - LESSON 7:  Social norms must be given consideration in decisionmaking, while still incorporating forward-thinking strategies of challenging and shifting them through the influence of BBC on youth culture over time.

 

Interactive Audience Engagement

Because the audience relationship to the characters is vital on a number of levels, the initiative uses several dialogic strategies.

 

  • Auditions, Voting, and Polling

In order to create a sense of public involvement and a relationship between the cast and public, since its second season, MTV Shuga has been running auditions for local aspiring actors to participate in both principle and minor roles. This strategy brings together face-to-face, video, website, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Auditions for minor roles are open - publicised on radio and on social media - and candidates are shortlisted to 8 possibilities whose tryouts have been made available for viewing online on MTV Shuga’s YouTube channel during a period in which audience members can vote and comment on their favourites. A Top Tips webpage was created to explain how to prepare for tryouts. The opportunity for anyone to try out for supporting roles in MTV Shuga is designed to inspire interest among young people and to provide them with the impetus to draw networks of supporters to vote for them.  This, in turn, places the MTV Shuga series in the eye of mass media and social media and has the potential to spread knowledge of the series and conversation about it among increasing numbers of young viewers and their families.

Another strategy for engaging youth is website polling, linked to mobiles for voting. Those with web-enabled mobiles can vote on the MTV Shuga website. In addition, the website carries various polls with questions to challenge and elicit opinion, e.g., "Will Princess be a good mum?" "Who is to blame for what happened to Mary?" "Would you reveal your HIV+ve status to a new partner before having sex?" The site has a section that asks for personal stories on a theme such as "Shuga has changed me." And if asks website visitors "What kind of Shuga fan are you?" with possibilities to enter gender, age, and whether located in Nigeria or elsewhere. - Lesson 8: Audience relationship to the characters of edutainment media can be strengthened through open casting via local auditions and subsequent voting by audience members. Web-based and mobile-phone-accessible polls are another form of two-way engagement.

  • Face-to-Face Dialogue on Edutainment content through Peer Educators 

In order to reinforce the messages aired through the multi-media platforms, the architects of MTV Shuga have organised a series of face-to-face engagements and dialogues with viewers, which allows for more substantive two-way communication. This is done through the training and engagement of Peer Educators.  Guides have been developed for use in capacity building of Peer Educators to assist them in their role as facilitators in face-to-face and on-line engagements.  NGO partners helped to develop a Peer Educators’ capacity building guide for the MTV Shuga series 2.

Subsequently, the University of Western Cape created the season 3 A Peer Educators’ Capacity Building Guide (see Print Materials and Guides) through a participatory weekend retreat involving university students and professors. This guide was developed through support from UNICEF and the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The role of Peer Educator has subsequently been broadened, as described in the Social Media interactivity section, to include engagement in social networking with the purpose of ultimately promoting an increase in viewership and discussion of the edutainment messaging. - Lesson 9: Deployment and capacity development of Peer Educators to facilitate dialogue around EE content is a powerful strategy for facilitating more personal engagement of audiences around the behaviour change messages embedded in the media content.

  • Tours and Related Promotion 

The strategies of bringing the MTV Shuga messaging to live audiences for more personalised involvement of staff and celebrities and for providing actual HIV testing opportunities have resulted in the creation of touring festivals/shows. The organisation of touring festivals has consisted of events that involve performance, particularly popular music performance, and episode screenings, including face-to-face opportunities through peer education outreach at the events, usually in major urban areas. For example, in 2015 in Nigeria, the project reach of a 3-city tour was approximately 3,500 people in Lagos, 500 people in Calabar, and 500 in Abuja.

In addition, screenings of MTV Shuga episodes for audiences at universities and community and youth centres increase the face-to-face interactions of Peer Educators. These events, for example, raised the number of face-to-face exposure to 60,000 people in Nigeria in the spring of 2015.

Event promotion has included arranging for the cast members to take over the “6222” Nigerian National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) helpline for a weekend, as well as ticket giveaway opportunities associated with HIV testing. At every festival, there has been a chance to: interact with cast members and Peer Educators in a café setting; have a free HIV test - with reported success in queuing attendees publically for testing (from an MTV staff observation); and receive a frequently asked question (FAQ) card with testing centre contacts and sexual health information. In order to link the online video channel, radio, and TV with the touring, at one of the festivals, MTV shot the theme song video for the 4th series.

Another cross-media opportunity has been a competition, kicked off at the festivals, to have young people vie to be reporters at the red carpet event of the opening of the new MTV Shuga season, 2015: “[Festival] Attendees can head over to the MTV Shuga audition area, where they’ll get a script and some clips to watch of Ehiz in action - then it’s their turn to show us how they’d deliver a red carpet link. Judges will be scoring and all clips will be posted on shuga.tv.”[14]- LESSON 10: Tours and festivals and related promotion for these events (e.g., competitions, promotional giveaways) are another way of increasing audience engagement and providing an opportunity for dissemination of materials and linkage to actual service delivery (e.g., HIV testing and help hotlines).

  • HIV Testing - Linking Media Messaging to Service Delivery

As described above, testing for HIV has been a major component of prevention and treatment BCC messages in MTV Shuga programming. TV and radio messages use edutainment plot elements to show aspects of testing and possible links to treatment and to behaviour change. As described above, the road shows offer incentives to test and venues for testing, as well as printed support materials as guidance. In order to link demand for testing with testing availability, under the MTV Shuga banner, the project has trained Peer Educators, counsellors, and testers who work across Nigeria. Those who test positive have been referred to their local hospitals for further testing, counselling, and treatment.[15] As a result of the Peer Educators' work and the availability at festivals, a total of 47,652 young people got tested in the space of 4 months.

  • Digital/Mobile Engagement - Skype and Mobile Phone Interaction

An interactive voice response (IVR) platform hosted on Skype has been offering a “Call a character” interaction, which is part of a strategy to foster more active involvement and agency on the part of listeners to both talk about their own situations and hear from the characters about their experiences.  In addition to web postings, blogs, comments, and social media interaction, there were 4,500 Skype calls in 2014 in which the audience members shared their own stories and commented on character behaviours. There are plans (see below) to add direct mobile services for the 2015 season. The associated "6222" NACA helpline telephone number is occasionally staffed by the actors from Shuga. An SMS messaging service is available. (See the Partners section below.) The helpline is being given its own "role" in the 2015 season drama to raise awareness of its availability. That strategy includes introducing the helpline office as a workplace for one of the MTV Shuga characters, so that, along with building her own knowledge of HIV prevention and treatment and her sense of personal agency around being tested, she is seen onscreen answering questions on the helpline. Further work on IVR telephony is in preparation. It includes plans for enabling a redirect to the “6222” helpline and trials of an IVR channel to provide 24-hour service, as well as use of multiple languages and further SMS interactivity. NACA is offering this service free on Airtel/Etisalat; and there is discussion among the partners on a future web interface, including use of Google maps of youth-friendly health and HIV testing centres[16].

Print Materials and Guides

  • Tour/Festival Peer Educator Checklist

A tour Peer Educator checklist (different from the Guide described earlier and in more detail below) was created on the National Youth Network on HIV/AIDS, Population and Development (Nynetha Lagos), in partnership with the MTV Staying Alive Foundation. Its purpose is to give an orientation to Peer Educators in preparation for their roles in the festivals.[17] The NGO developed the Peer Educators’ checklist on Facebook in a question and answer format describing how a tour is organised and what face-to-face opportunities are included for attendees, including music, testing, “selfies”, and chats with cast celebrities and Peer Educators “over a free soft drink … about HIV and sexual health” at the Shuga Café. The posting of “behind the scenes gossip” is encouraged, with directions for Tweeting included. A maximisation of the level of integration of social media and face-to-face, sometimes interpersonal, involvement has been supported through this online document customised for the peer educators at the festivals.

 

 

  • The Shuga Comic

The publication of a comic for each series has given a print media distribution opportunity for each of the MTV Shuga storylines. For the Nigerian series for season 3 and season 4, Nigerian publishers feature artwork from Nigerian artists. Based on the story of characters Nii and Malaika from MTV Shuga season 3, the comic is available online and in hardcopy. Discussions around GBV were central to the season 3 storyline. The comic book offers an alternative ending to the Nii and Malaika problem of GBV and provides tips on where to go for advice and support, including contact details of various organisations that assist victims of GBV in Nigeria, as well as emergency telephone numbers in the country. The release was supported by online interviews with the cast who are featured in the comic.[18]  Season 4 offers a comic with a difference in the storyline - not an alternative ending, but an extension of the plotline - and a resolution which needed legal grounding supported by advice from, for example, Lawyers without Borders and other legal advisors, assisting in adapting the script to the Nigerian system of law and enforcement. - LESSON 11: Comic books can deliver the plot and BCC objectives to a youth audience and can diverge in ways that might challenge social norms regulated for TV audiences.

  •  A Peer Educators’ Capacity Building Guide

Differing from the Peer Educators’ checklist, this guide is designed to help Peer Educators both understand the issues framed by the MTV Shuga series and understand their own situations relative to coming of age, sexuality, families, stigma, and behaviours surrounding the risk of HIV.[19] The focus of the guide is on whether and how MTV Shuga viewers use their knowledge of HIV. The guide is centred on the quality of individual human relationships among young people and families that can support open conversation and a route to safer navigation of personal decision-making, the danger of silence, and the importance of personal, internal goals. Each session focuses on an episode and a theme, with invitations for personal reflection. - LESSON 12: Materials to guide Peer Educators can support their decisions around sexuality and HIV in order to increase their ability to provide interpersonal behaviour change support for others.

 

Partnerships

As reported by the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, partnerships are key to MTV Shuga development and expansion. Its affiliation with MTV Base Africa and Viacom International Media Networks and the funders opened doors for partnership with the Government of Kenya and Kenyan NGOs for two seasons, filmed in Kenya. Backing from, for example, PEPFAR, and the Partnership for an HIV-Free Generation (HFG), among others, allowed for greater outreach to local, national, and regional NGOs.  MTV Base Africa has also given access to performers and an audience base.  The MTV Staying Alive Foundation has had substantial partnership input on: message creation; credibility with audiences and with the government and NGO communities where it produces its series; the availability of free testing; NGO buy-in for peer education; helpline call centre quality and availability (from NACA); and state level, in addition to national-level support and cooperation.

UNICEF support offered deep radio exposure.  Shuga Naija was produced in partnership with, among others, the NACA, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, PEPFAR, and UNICEF.  The telephony interface for MTV Shuga and its audience is, in part, due to its partnership with NACA and their helpline, as mentioned above.  As stated earlier, the Elton John AIDS Foundation and UNICEF funded the training of Peer Educators and testers, converting viewers and participants into those with knowledge of how to access HIV testing, as well as their own HIV status. Script work on violence against women, a theme of the 2014 series, was carried out in partnership with the Nigerian NGO Project Alert on Violence Against Women and Lagos AG.

The MTV Staying Alive Foundation acknowledges the value of MTV Base Africa and its founding board chair Bill Roedy, who was formerly chairman and chief executive of Viacom International Media Networks and provided strong buy-in from within the company, described as essential in an independent private/public partnership. Though there have been challenges to get mobile phone companies on board, fundamental partnerships with governments, especially both national aids programmes, have been vital, according to the MTV Staying Alive Foundation. - LESSON 13: Finding a broad and ever-expanding partnership base - especially by focusing on those working in areas of need, both population groups and localities, and by developing links to government agencies and programmes - ensures programme sustainability and a deepening outreach.

Monitoring, Evidence Gathering, Results, and Impact

This section describes current and upcoming studies on the impact of MTV Shuga. This includes data on MTV Shuga reach (via mass media and digital and social media) and a student-led study from the University of Western Cape, South Africa.

Data from the MTV Staying Alive Foundation (October 15 2015), includes broadcast and social media statistics on viewership and audience interaction, including:

  1. Mass Media Reach - pan-African viewership through 122 broadcasters.
  2. Digital and Social Media (as of the publication of this report or as indicated)
    1.   “The MTV Shuga YouTube channel has reached 2.9 million views and, together with other third party platforms such as iRoko, close to 5 million online views of all Shuga content from the fourth (2015/16) series. For series 4 alone, there have been 384,213 views as of 15th of October; this is double the views compared to series 3. On average, users are spending 8 minutes consuming MTV Shuga content on YouTube.
    2. 1,384,369 page views on MTVShuga.com website and over 52,000 posting.
    3. Facebook: 117,000 followersmore than double the followers from the previous campaign and currently averaging 1,000+ likes a week.
    4. Twitter has reached 13,001 followers, triple the amount from the series 3 campaign; #MTVShuga4 trended multiple times in Nigeria after each of the episodes aired.
    5. Shuga has 5,541 Instagram followers, growing at weekly rate of 5%.
    6. The programme is reaching over 164,000 followers across all our social media platforms - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube. And the total reach is over 42 million on social media.”[20]

 

The MTV Staying Alive Foundation embarked on a real-time research project during the 2015 season, beginning with a baseline and then a follow-up questionnaire, supplemented by a small qualitative research project of weekly post-programme responses, drawing on such techniques as soliciting response diaries and seeking real-time information on programme response, social media use, and measurement of BCC. A preliminary look at findings from the research organisation Tapestry in Nigeria shows that:

·        "… three fifths (58%) of young Nigerians, equivalent to 7 million people, are aware of the Shuga, and more than one third (36%) or over 4 million have watched it.

·         Shuga is starting to challenge some views, and helpfully addressing some of the barriers to better practice around safe sex and sexual health, as well as gender stereotyping. [Using comparisons of viewer and non-viewer responses.]

·         More than two thirds of women are empowered to refuse sex if their partner isn’t wearing a condom; a high proportion of viewers say this -  72% compared to 67% of non-viewers."

·         Actions of viewers include: "…15% [of viewers] overall saying that as a result of Shuga they used a condom last time they had sex … the same proportion said they had been for a HIV test … one fifth of all respondents (22%) said they had talked to friends about safe sex and HIV and the same proportion said they discussed these matters with a partner." 

 

In a 2013, the University of Western Cape (UWC) published a student-led study[21] that sought to assess, among other things, UWC student attitudes. These students were asked 16 questions prior to the viewing (baseline) of MTV Shuga episodes, after the viewing (post-baseline), and after the follow-up and peer-led discussions. Notably, the data below show that students were apparently feeling over-confident in their knowledge of HIV prior to the study. Also, as they realised the risk of this knowledge deficit, their stigmatisation of those who contract HIV was reduced. A few of the results of the study involving 4 groups of 10 students are detailed here:

  • In general, risk awareness of HIV increased as much as 65% from baseline to endline.
  • Regarding the efficacy of discussion, those agreeing that “I know enough about HIV” registered 50% at baseline, 45.5% after viewing MTV Shuga, and 5% after the discussion.  Similarly, student perception of their vulnerability changed on the statement “I can handle or successfully navigate situations with the risk of HIV being present” - from 65% agreement to 5% agreement.
  • With regard to stigma, for the statement “People who get HIV deserve to get it. 50% believe that those who have HIV deserved to get it”, the number of students who agreed dropped from 50% to 40% after viewing MTV Shuga and to 15% after the follow-up discussion.
  • At baseline, 20% believed that alcohol or drugs would influence their behaviour to accept unprotected sex; at endline, 87.5% believed that these substances would influence their behaviour, putting them at risk.
  • And, finally, at baseline, 47.5% said yes to this statement: “I will not engage myself in unprotected sex because of family problems, money, food, job and the career I want.”  After the film and after the discussion, 10% said they would not do so, while nearly 60% indicated disagreement with the statement. This evidence suggests that the storyline of MTV Shuga has brought to the students in the study an understanding of the linkage of economic necessity and economic and social aspirations with transactional sex. Because links between transactional sex and HIV are recognised, the study points to this finding as a matter of concern.

 

A UNICEF-led multi-country initiative, Shuga Radio, was started in Cameroon, DRC, Kenya, Lesotho, South Africa, and Tanzania to support awareness-raising around HIV. The intiative's objectives included HTC (HIV testing and counselling - also VTC, voluntary testing and counselling), behaviour change, and demand creation among young people for proven effective interventions. Results from multiple studies include: for Cameroon: "Increased use of HTC [HIV testing and counselling - also VCT, voluntary counselling and testing] shown during 2012, highest levels during broadcast."[22] A report from a 2013 study of the project's community radio broadcasting in Cameroon, analysing data on six HIV/AIDS VCT centres in three of the project’s four areas of intervention, showed that: "The community radio stations effectively raised the target group’s awareness of HIV prevention, the importance of voluntary HIV testing and the adoption of behaviour favourable to the non-transmission of HIV....Ownership by adolescents and young people took the form of SHUGA TV screening campaigns run by young people."[23] An evaluation from a 2012 study of the project's radio broadcasting in DRC surveyed the 8 VCT sites used for the baseline study and showed increasing visits of 10-24 year olds to the testing centre during the period of the radio broadcast.[24]

 

An upcoming World Bank study[25], which began with MTV Shuga’s 2013 season, is in process. It employs a clustered randomised trial design intended to estimate the effects of social norms: “information on beliefs and values of peers after seeing Shuga” and friend influence - attitudinal effects of invitees bringing friends to view a screening - comparing the invitee and friend to friends not brought to a screening.

 

In Summary: Lessons Learned: This is a collection of the lessons embedded in the evolution of the multi-dimensional components of the 360-degree programme interventions:

 

LESSON 1: Given the demonstrated positive impact of edutainment media, it is important to focus attention on how to take it to scale with multiple strategies to maximise reach and access, e.g., no-cost offer of programmes to third-party broadcasters; selection of broadcast times to match viewer density for age target; placement on web platforms to facilitate on-demand viewing; and engagement of celebrities in the media content.

 

LESSON 2:  Edu-tainment programmes developed for TV can broaden their reach to rural areas with low TV access by using the same objectives, BCC content, and messages and adapting the delivery for use on Radio platforms.

LESSON 3: Social media can be used as a one-way or promotional toolset and as a two-way or an interactive audience engagement toolset. In pushing the toolsets for maximum strategic engagement, the lines between one-way and two-way are often overlapping.

 

LESSON 4: The use of celebrities and especially rising local stars is a good strategy for building audiences, increasing the desire of viewers to affiliate with the characters and, by extension, increasing message receptivity and therefore their inclusion in programme content is an important consideration.

 

LESSON 5: Co-development of media content with members of the intended audience is valuable for increasing authenticity and appropriateness of script language and content, including most current concerns and trends.

 

LESSON 6:  Audience affiliation with characters, their loyalty to the show, and consequent receptivity to the BCC messaging embedded in these characters' roles must be given consideration in decisionmaking processes on programme content and changes. Establishing mechanisms for feedback of this nature must therefore be embedded in the programme development process.

 

LESSON 7:  Social norms must be given consideration in decisionmaking, while still incorporating forward-thinking strategies of challenging and shifting them through the influence of BCC on youth culture over time.

 

LESSON 8: Audience relationship to the characters of edutainment media can be strengthened through open casting via local auditions and subsequent voting by audience members. Web-based and mobile-phone-accessible polls are another form of two-way engagement.

 

LESSON 9: Deployment and capacity development of Peer Educators to facilitate dialogue around edu-tainment content is a powerful strategy for facilitating more personal engagement of audiences around the behaviour change messages embedded in the media content.

 

LESSON 10: Tours and festivals and related promotion for these events (e.g., competitions, promotional giveaways) are another way of increasing audience engagement and providing an opportunity for dissemination of materials and linkage to actual service delivery (e.g., HIV testing and help hotlines).

 

LESSON 11: Comic books can deliver the plot and BCC objectives to a youth audience and can diverge in ways that might challenge social norms regulated for TV audiences.

 

LESSON 12: Materials to guide Peer Educators can support their decisions around sexuality and HIV in order to increase their ability to provide interpersonal behaviour change support for others.

 

LESSON 13: Finding a broad and ever-expanding partnership base - especially by focusing on those working in areas of need, both population groups and localities, and by developing links to government agencies and programmes - ensures programme sustainability and a deepening outreach.

 


[1] Christodoulo, Mario. “’Shuga’ is Saving Lives in Nigeria”, Impatient Optimists website, January 6 2014.

[2] Email from Sara Piot of of the MTV Staying Alive Foundation to The Communication initiative on OCTOBER 21 2015.

[5] Shuga: What we have achieved 07.2014, brochure sent to The Communication Initiative by Mario Christodoulou, March 27 2015.

[6] Shuga, brochure from the MTV Staying Alive Foundation, sent to The Communication Initiative by Mario  Christodoulou, March 27 2015.

[7] Impact Evaluation Concept Note: Changing norms and behaviors through entertainment TV: Impact Evaluation of the MTV series Shuga, April 4 2014, sent to The Communication Initiative by Mario Christodoulou, March 27 2015.

[8] Shetty, Priya, Kenyan HIV stories”, The Lancet, Volume 376, No. 9737, p224, 24 July 2010.

[10] Shuga, brochure from the Staying Alive Foundation, sent to The Communication Initiative by Mario Christodoulou, March 27 2015.

[15] Email from Georgia Arnold, MTV, to UNICEF on September 16 2015.

[16] Shuga: What we have achieved 07.2014, brochure sent to The Communication Initiative by Mario Christodoulou, March 27 2015.

[17] Nynethala Facebook page, accessed June 25 2015.

[18] Shuga website, accessed June 29 2015.

[19] Peer Educators’ Guide, Shuga website, accessed June 25 2015.

[20] Email from Sara Piot of The MTV Staying Alive Foundation to The Communication Initiative on October 19 2015.

[21] Halima Lila. “Perceptions of Risk for HIV amongst South African University Students: The impact of the MTV film Shuga”. March 2013. Email from Sara Piot to The Communication Initiative on October 21 2015.

[23] Analysis of the Baseline Study Conducted at 6 VCT Centres as Part of the Shuga Radio Project in Cameroon: Performance Evaluation, April 2013, UNICEF document sent by MTV Staying Alive Foundation.

[24] Shuga Radio Initiative, Kinshasa DRC, 2012, document sent by MTV STaying Alive Foundation.

[25] Impact Evaluation Concept Note: Changing norms and behaviors through entertainment TV: Impact Evaluation of the MTV series Shuga, April 2014, PDF document received by email March 27 2015.