Why radio and television?

We broadcast exclusively on radio and television. These channels are the best way to reach large numbers of people at low cost. On average, it is between 100 and 1,000 times more cost-effective to use radio and television than face-to-face 'community-level' channels, such as street theatre. For example, an HIV/AIDS campaign in India reached 43 million people on television (at a cost of $0.01 per person reached), while the same campaign was watched by 348,000 people on video vans (at a cost of $1.43 per person reached).

There is also plenty of evidence that mass media campaigns are at least as effective in causing behaviour change as more expensive community-level campaigns. For example, after a leprosy campaign in India using both mass media (TV and radio) and community media, we surveyed the number of people who still believed that leprosy was a curse of the gods. Among those who had only seen or heard the mass media campaign, just 17% still believed this to be the case. Among those who had only seen the community media campaign, 30% of people still believed it.

Mass media is cost-effective in developing countries because the vast majority of people consume some form of mass media on a regular basis, even in the poorest countries. In most developing countries, over 75% of people regularly listen to the radio or watch television. Radio is an important and trusted source of health information, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Even people in the most remote rural communities either have access to a radio (sometimes through radio listening clubs) or have regular contact with others who listen to it. Television is less pervasive in rural communities, but is extremely popular in urban areas and is growing rapidly in many countries across Africa and Asia (it is already dominant in Latin America). The chart below shows the percentage of households in our priority countries in Africa that own a radio or a television set respectively.


Research commissioned by the BBC in 2006 found that the number of community radio stations in Africa had grown by 1,386 per cent during the previous six years. This renaissance in radio in many countries is partly due to liberalised broadcasting environments but also to the availability of cheap radio sets which, unlike TVs, do not require access to the electricity grid. 

A 2010 article in the Lancet, written by Professor Bob Hornik (one of our board members), discusses the use of mass media in health behaviour campaigns in more detail.

Our campaigns are centred on 30-60 second adverts or 'spots' on radio or television. Spots are short, entertaining, and can be repeated hundreds of times. They can also be produced in all languages. By broadcasting on a number of national and local stations, we can run a national campaign that is adjusted for the language and message needs of regional audiences. Click here to see examples of spots from previous campaigns.

We are currently designing health behaviour change campaigns in 10 African countries and are looking for partners and funders through our Media Million Lives initiative.