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Media Events for Development Campaigns

Anne-Katrin Arnold's picture

Using large international events to get attention for a development objective is a pretty good idea. Events like the Soccer World Cup are so called media events - events that capture the attention of a large audience, that break our routines, and unify a large scattered audience. Whatever team you were cheering for, you weren't the only one cheering for it, and didn't you feel like your team's friends were also your friends? This kind of mood - attention and a feeling of community - provides a great environment for campaigns that want to raise awareness about certain issues or that want to change norms and behaviors.

I have already mentioned the "Brothers for Life" campaign that tried to encourage men to take a stance against gender based violence and to get tested for HIV. There were many other campaigns, actually, many of them around HIV/AIDS. For "Give AIDS the Red Card" national football team captains from South Africa, Nigeria, France, Paraguay, Uruguay, Australia, Cote D'Ivoire, Greece, and Serbia supported a UNAIDS campaign aimed at reducing babies' infection with HIV and maternal mortality due to HIV/AIDS.

The project "Public Viewing in Africa" utilized the effect of media events to bring people together in one spot: Sony, UNDP, and the Japan International Cooperation Agency screened football matches in poor communities in Cameroon and Ghana, offering HIV testing and counselling at the same time. The Africa Goal Campaign did a similar thing in Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, and South Africa, showing HIV educational videos before each match.

In their book "Media Events", sociologists Elihu Katz and Daniel Dayan define the phenomenon as "historic occasions ... that are televised as they take place and transfix their nation or the world. They include epic contests of politics and sports, charismatic missions, and the rites of passage of the great ... a new narrative genre that employs the unique potential of the electronic media to command attention universally and simultaneously in order to tell a primordial story about current affairs." For awareness raising campaigns, these events provide a unique opportunity to command the attention of a large audience. The World Cup may have provided opportunities to not only raise the awareness of the affected population, but also of donors, individual and otherwise. Another reason why the World Cup in South Africa was a great success for the entire continent. 

Picture credit: Sony 

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