A New York Times article today about TV shows that are receiving funding from Gates Foundation to develop television programming through Viacom to influence the publics view on education and healthcare. While this has been going on for a long time the interesting part is that we are now talking about advocacy placement just like product placement. Get a TV show character to not only talk about the war on H.I.V. or donate a kidney but to have it affect the main story line intrinsically.
The efforts of philanthropies to influence entertainment programming is not new, although viewers are probably less aware of it then obvious marketing tie-ins in which, for example, a can of Coca-Cola shows up in a character’s hands. The Kaiser Family Foundation, which focuses on health issues, has been doing such work for a dozen years. It has worked story lines about H.I.V. and AIDS into programs on CBS and UPN (now known as the CWnetwork), including the reality show “America’s Next Top Model.”