Introduction- The Third Eye Project is a collaborative endeavour between the Asian Center for Entertainment Education, India, and Hollywood, Health and Society (HH&S) at the Norman Lear Center, University of Southern California. It is one of the two Global Centres, the other being in Nigeria, which is funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, primarily to harness the power of media and entertainment and to spread awareness and information about key health, sustainable development and climate change issues.
The Third Eye connects creative communities (producers, writers, authors, directors and journalists) to experts across various fields (doctors, lawyers, public health specialists, environmentalists, etc.) and is the bridge between creative communities and the priorities of our times.
From 2013, ACEE has spearheaded the discourse on priority issues in popular entertainment and media. Through the last two years, experts have consulted on 200+ storylines on television, film and digital content.
As a precursor to the monthly newsletter, The Eye Of The Storm, which has gained huge popularity among creative communities as well as development proffessionals from across the world over the last few months, The Third Eye program has added a research paper that will elucidate the topic, which for the month of August, 2015 is ‘Making Sustainability Tangible’, and quantify it in context to media and entertainment.
It is here that Vinta Nanda, Former Producer, Writer & Director of Television, Films and Documentaries and Managing Director, ACEE, Deepa Bhalerao, Social Scientist and Director Programs ACEE, Simran Puri, Writer and Lawyer, Shiv Bhalla, Writer, Musician and Creative Director ACEE, Hans Kapadia, Director Business Development and Strategy, Varuna Khattri, Consultant Finance and Strategy, Piroj Wadia, Columnist and Television Commentator and Niharika Puri, Writer and Film Commentator, write in their pieces every month and discuss the subject from diverse perspectives.
Research review reveals that the sustainability discourse is still in its early stages across platforms in most disciplines. Conceptual clarity is being sought and the need and importance of making sustainability tangible is being discussed. This piece aims to bring about the seriousness of the issue pertaining to sustainability and how it touches every sphere in the media and entertainment business.
Sustainability is being quantified in the field of development where the impact and outcomes are being measured and solutions sought. The corporate world is adopting protocols and practices to incorporate sustainability within its various functions.
The first reference that comes to mind is Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’, which aims to call attention to the dangers society faces from climate change, and suggests urgent actions that need to be taken immediately. It is an advocacy piece that is part documentary, part biography, and part campaign ad.
Looking at the international print media, in the typically grim Syria story in the New York Times, August 24, 2015, there was a surprising quote from one of the non-jihadist rebels calling the Assad administration, “A filthy failure that has destroyed the country’s trees and people and allowed ISIS to rise
Though it doesn’t get much attention, the deforestation of Syria is one of the factors in the civil war there as the Times’s Thomas Friedman reminds us in Showtime’s climate change series Years of Living Dangerously. The columnist speaks with a Syrian refugee about her experience of the drought (which is linked in large part to the country’s deforestation)—a man-made disaster that resulted in a million people being displaced, and two million left unemployed. The series is not all bad news; we see scientists, politicians and businessmen alike getting the message as the evidence piles up along with the bodies and fallen trees. Correctly put is a little girl’s reaction to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, “It’s like watching a horror movie, except I’m in it.”
Media as a vehicle for the Sustainability Discourse -
“Media companies have a unique role to play in the sustainability field,” said Marjolein Baghuis, the GRI’s director of communications and network relations. The responsibility of media companies lies not in their physical footprint but their ability to influence consumers’ footprints through the ‘brainprints’ they leave on their audiences.
When SustainAbility first examined the Media & Entertainment sector in Good News & Bad (2002) and Through the Looking Glass (2004), few media companies produced sustainability reports, and those that did tended to focus on direct environmental footprints alone.
This is slowly changing, with companies like The Guardian Media Group leading the sector by setting a clear vision to “educate, influence and inspire” its audience on sustainability. Walt Disney Company sees its responsibility in shaping “the world of tomorrow” and states in its current Corporate Citizenship Report that “as a media company, our intellectual property and airtime are two of our most valuable assets”.
Jo Confino, Executive Editor of the Guardian and Head of Sustainable Development for Guardian News and Media, points out, “being able to shout that we carried five times more stories on climate change than a competitor is a useful measure in one sense, but if all the coverage points to a disastrous future and readers sink deeper into denial as a result, then it is a pyrrhic victory”.
“With calls growing louder for media companies to make substantive sustainability commitments, the Global Reporting Initiative has just unveiled its new media industry sustainability guidelines — a set of indicators and questions designed to help companies measure the social, economic and environmental impacts of media companies on society.
Sustainability issues have found a place in the international media since long. The list of popular programs that have made the sustainability discourse integral to their narratives is as follows-
• Last week tonight by John Oliver on HBO – Weekly episodes on multiple issues ranging from food wastage, to climate change, to consumerism, and legal rights
• Big Men (documentary) – Oil, human rights, natural resources
• Waiting for Superman (documentary) – Education
• Take part – Many different shows on the web platform
• Pivot TV – Many different shows on the TV platform
• An inconvenient truth – Climate change and global warming
• Years of living dangerously – Climate change and global warming
• The true cost – Sustainable fashion and apparels
• The square – Human rights
• Dr. Strangelove – Nuclear standoff and war
• GMO OMG – Food security
• Mad Max – Dystopian movie based on a world with no resources
• The Hunger Games – Dystopian movie
• Divergent Series – Dystopian movie
• The Maze Runner Series – Dystopian movie
• Capitalism: A Love Story – Capitalism, consumerism, wastage, resources
• Inside Job – Financial security and sustainability
• The Promised Land – Climate change, shale, natural gas, anti-coal
• Fight Club – Debt, Anarcho-dystopia
• Utopia – Population, sterilisation, new world order
Sustainability Issues in Contemporary Indian Media -
Popular television has time and again addressed various issues pertinent to the changing times.
In the year 2008, the serial Kyunki Jeena Isika Naam Hai, premiered on television, flagging off an era of socially relevant and meaningful content which would be measured for its impact on the society.
The serial’s primary objective was to impart, persuasively, the vital messages found in Facts for Life. Tackling the basic—and sometimes unmentionable—socio-cultural causes contributing to poor maternal and new-born health is fundamental to achieving the project’s targeted behavioural outcomes. The serial recognizes that the principles of equality and inclusion are fundamental to the adoption of practises critical to children’s and women’s health and welfare. A widow, a teacher, a nurse, an illiterate woman, a divorcee, and a potter’s daughter are the unassuming but aspirational protagonists who are out to change the social landscape of Kyunki’s fictitious village of Rajpura.
The trend caught on and through the years that followed, more television serials which addressed the variety of issues relating to sustainability.
Here’s a list of recent programs that broke stereotypes and addressed the important issues -
Gangaa is an ongoing TV serial that airs on &TV. The series, which got launched on March 2, 2015, took up the serious issue of child widow custom in India. The plot revolves around Gangaa, a child widow played by Ruhana Khanna, who has an indomitable will to survive and live her life to the fullest, against all old age norms and beliefs the society is trying to impose on her. Ruhana has been Miss Global at Global Kids Fashion Show 2013. She plays a strong protagonist with an aim to abolish the child widow culture still rampant in many parts of India.
High on TRPs, this Indian soap opera aired between December 2008 and January 2015 on the Colours channel. The show depicts the childhood of two friends ‒ Ichcha and Tapasya ‒ from different strata of society. In spite of the vast difference in status, the little girls become best of friends. Soon we find jealousy creeping into their relationship with the entry of some negative characters. However, as we see a generation leap of 10 years, the initial theme of the show seems to be changing. The series gracefully held the audiences and somehow tried to blur the still-so-fine line between the poor and the rich and discrimination based on the social status.
Child actors Avinash Mukherjee and Avika Gor presenting various issues related with child marriages in India in this drama series swayed the nation from its very beginning. The story, aired on Colours channel revolves around the two getting married as children, growing up together, facing difficulties because of the cause and of course, their families involved in the process. The series continues to throw across some critical social messages to the audiences through its strong storyline and plot. By the end of 2008, the series won ‘Best Programme With A Social Message’ award at the 8th Indian Telly Awards.
Premiered on Colors TV network in August 2014, this show is being produced by Bollywood filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt. The social drama cast child artiste Spandan Chaturvedi who plays the lead as a free-spirited girl named Chakor. The heart-warming programme highlights the reasons and consequences of the issue of bonded labour, which is still prevalent in many parts of India. The show also educates about how to fight against such social evils.
Service Wali Bahu: This Indian television drama show premiered on Zee TV in February 2015. Kratika Sengar, who plays the bahu (daughter-in-law) as Payal, presents the tale of an Indian household where in order to support her in-laws, she goes out to work. The protagonist and the story revolving around her aim to support feminism. While Payal is a civil engineer, her husband is a jobless person. She not only earns and supports her in-laws, but also manages the household and homemaking tasks. Also talking about the Indian customs like the dowry system, the story of the series goes on around various ups and downs in Payal’s life and the way she manages them.
Main Kuchch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon-
Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon (I, a woman, can achieve anything)
Set in a small town Pratapur, ‘Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon’ revolves around the inspiring journey of Dr. Sneha. She represents the young Indian woman of today, who thrives on challenges. Emotionally torn between family and society, between professional aspirations and personal commitment, her struggles and triumphs form the core of this memorable soap opera. ‘Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon’ throws light on the ability of a woman to break free of the shackles of the society and prove her mettle. Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon challenges deep-rooted social norms like child marriage, early pregnancy and gender based violence.
The serial is a joint initiative by Population Foundation of India and Doordarshan. MKBKSH is also being made available as a radio play, internet, and mobile space. A telephonic hotline is operational and serves as a vehicle to interact with audiences and measure feedback.
Hamari Sister Didi- Hamari Sister Didi, broadcast from September 2014 to February 2015 on Sony Pal channel, is the story of a Head Nurse Amrita Kapoor, who is living and working in a trust hospital in the town of Patiala in Punjab. Amrita’s late husband has been the previous chief of the trust hospital. She lives with her two children and her mother-in-law who is also a trustee of the hospital. The hospital is known for its dedicated service and pro-poor stance. The story offers a natural setting for medical and health-related content.
HSD addressed a bouquet of social issues and health priority issues, all of which were vetted for accuracy. A research was conducted on a sample of regular viewers based in UP and Bihar which showed that the creatively woven messages embedded in the serial made a significant impact on the audiences.
(Ref- Attachment – Hamari Sister Didi Final Report PDF)*
Roshini- Ek Nayi Ummeed – Roshni (English: A New Hope – Roshni) is an Indian medical drama television series, which premiered on 13 July 2015 and is broadcast on Life OK. Set in hospitals in the UK and in Bhopal, India, the series addresses a wide range of contemporary issues in healthcare. The setting and the cases have been thoroughly researched and presented with authenticity, serving as a benchmark for excellence in topical and meaningful content.
II. Dedicated Television Channel for Farmers –
Inaugurated in May 2015, The Kisan Channel became the first TV channel dedicated to the concerns pertinent to farmers.
The 24×7 Kisan Channel will be telecasting updated information on agriculture and related subject for the benefit of its target audience including cattle rearers, bee keepers, poultry owners, mechanics and craftsmen. This would include information broadcast on the changing weather condition well in advance, and the low cost measures to protect crops / enhance produce during such conditions. Advice of IMD Scientists and Agricultural Scientists would be broadcast periodically for the farmers so that they may know about the crop diseases, ways to protect crops from various diseases and on how to increase the crop yield. The Channel will give information on newer ways of agricultural practices being followed world over and the R&D in the agri sector across the world. The Channel has tie up with IMD, IARI, Agricultural Universities, Krish Vigyan Kendras etc.
As of 2015, Media Consumption patterns are beginning to change. With the increasing penetration of smartphones, 3G Internet data and reduced connectivity costs, viewership is getting spread across these media, making each one of them a potentially powerful platform to disseminate the message of sustainability.
Author – Acee Team
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