Broadcast and digital media

The key to this intervention Broadcast and electronic media allows the delivery of powerful imagery and narrative to challenge an audience to reflect directly on their own attitudes, beliefs and behaviour.

What is the activity?

Information and advice about preventing HIV transmission can be delivered through a range of broadcast and electronic media including radio, television, DVD, and online via film and video and audio (mp3) clips.

Prior to the advent of the internet this type of content was accessible only through television (including video) and radio equipment, but advancing internet accessibilty and associated delivery technologies allows access via computers (including tablet-type devices), smart phones and other hand-held electronic reading devices. In the context of very fast changing means of delivery the health sector is just beginning to get to grips with the increasing possibilities offered by broadcast and electronic media.

Broadcast and electronic activity can be divided into static and interactive interventions. Static interventions include radio or TV shows, films or video or audio clips, or downloads of written, spoken or video interventions. The information exchange is expected to be one way and the recipient listens, reads or watches but cannot interact with the content.

Interactive interventions can include all of the above methods but an interaction or response is encouraged or expected. For example, radio or TV shows might include an element of participation - such as talk shows; information DVDs or films might be used as part of a discussion event; viewers of video clips might be asked to record and upload their own video response; or participate in comments boards.

It is also increasingly common for health promoters to design websites with a degree of interactivity. For example, MyHIV allows people with diagnosed HIV to track their CD4 and viral load counts; enter details of their HIV medications and programme electronic reminders to take pills. Also websites in North America and Australia allow men to inform (former) partners they might have been exposed to an STI. The Australian website also allows registered users to set-up personalised reminders for routine STI screening or HIV testing.

Strengths and limitations

Innovative broadcast and electronic media interventions can create unique opportunities to help people explore difficult and complex issues. They can encourage people to explore their emotional responses to sexuality, HIV and risk (including anger, pleasure, happiness, sadness, indifference, fear), while also enabling them to consider the different outcomes of behavioural choices.

It is also widely assumed that the dynamic and informal environments which such approaches utilise are more likely to engage those who are not drawn to more traditional health promotion interventions (such as written information or therapeutic interventions, for example), perhaps especially younger MSM.

Talking interventions, including video documentaries, delivered via electronic media can be a very direct means of sharing new information, promoting a service, or challenging thinking about a topic or issue.

Narratives are an important means of conveying meaning. Through the development of an empathetic response, broadcast and electronic media can provide a powerful medium through which individuals consider their own responses to HIV. The use of oral, visual and kinetic expression improves accessibility for those with difficulties with spoken or written English. Furthermore, the use of modern and traditional gay-cultural tyraditions can foster a sense of welcome, belonging and recognition. Targeting must be carefully considered, as regional, generational, linguistic, religious and cultural diversity means that not all interventions will be acceptable to all MSM.

Where does it happen?

With the increasing popularity of smart phones, tablets and ever smaller personal computers broadcast and electronic media can be delivered to a person wherever they are. They can also be delivered in real time as events in their own right, or one element of a larger public gathering, display or transmission. Examples include:

  • Film shows (with Q&As) at LGBT Film festivals, in LGBT History Month events or World AIDS Day events.
  • Broadcasts on MSM-targeted radio and television stations or online, either as a dramatic series, musical form, as a talk show.
  • Broadcasts of video and documentary interventions can occur on websites, on video-screens in community businesses, or on community focussed television channels.

Frequently delivered alongside ...

Issues to consider

As a category broadcast and electronic media interventions focus largely on the mode of delivery of information or advice, rather than the specific content. While the aims of these intervention are likely to be primarily knowledge-based, broadcast and electronic media can address attitudes to, and motivation to avoid HIV. The actual content will vary widely and should be dictated by the asirations of the health promoter.

Fantastically innovative electronic media interventions, with limited or unhelpful content are not likely to have a great deal of impact, in the same way as fantastic content makes a poorly designed website largely unhelpful.

Effective broadcast and electronic media interventions will require health promotion expertise and probably artistic, electronic and broadcast input. This will require collaboration between people from diverse and contrasting disciplines. Managing such a collaboration so that the end product is useful and useable will be the key to succesful implementation.

Aims and outcomes

The outcomes from this intervention are primarily knowledge-based, but broadcast and electronic media can address attitudes to, and motivation to avoid, HIV. The list below offers some examples of the aims and outcomes associated with broadcast and electronic media interventions, but is not exhaustive.

  1. Increased motivation to avoid HIV exposure and transmission (see associated choice and some of the basic information, opportunities and resources and skills needed).
  2. Increased uptake of STI screening and HIV testing (see associated choice and potential aims associated with HIV testing knowledge; STI knowledge; and the testing opportunities and skills required).
  3. Increased understanding that different sexual activities carry differing risks of HIV transmission (see associated choices such as avoiding anal intercourse or using condoms for anal intercourse and aims such as knowing the risks associated with anal intercourse and the benefits of condom use).
  4. Increased confidence to openly discuss sex, sexuality, and sexual health with partners and in social networks, including the resources and skills to share information with partners and to decline sexual contact.
  5. Increased understanding of the benefits of condom use for anal intercourse (see associated choice regarding condoms for anal intercourse and aims such as knowing the benefits of condom use and having the resources and opportunities to access them and the skills to use them).
  6. Increased understanding of the alternatives to risky behaviour (see associated choices such as avoiding anal intercourse or using condoms for anal intercourse and aims such as knowing the risks associated with anal intercourse and the benefits of condom use).
  7. Increased understanding of means of HIV risk reduction when unprotected anal intercourse does occur (see associated choices such as withdrawal before ejaculation and the knowledge and skills required).

Monitoring and evaluation

Evaluation of broadcast and electronic media is relatively rare, as yet, and the range and typesof intervention on offer are changing sufficiently fast for it to be hard to predict which modes of delivery will have most impact, and for what purpose.

In the development stage peer review and pre-testing of the proposed form and content is important to ensure that the aim and the content are unified, that the essential information is clear, and that the design ideas are acceptable and attractive to viewers and listeners.

Follow-up questionnaires, or end-user focus groups can be used to assess if the aims were met among those exposed to the intervention.

Page last updated: 17 June 2013

Case study

YouTube and Twitter

As use and awareness of social media increases, Yorkshire MESMAC has developed its services to MSM in West and North Yorkshire by communicating with men via Twitter and by posting short films on YouTube. Both provide information on how to access Yorkshire MESMAC services, links to news stories, and up-to-date information, including current campaigns such as Count Me In. Not only are these social media a contemporary way ofcommunicating, they allow MESMAC to reach individuals who may not access traditional services or their local gay scene. This is especially important in an area with a large and dispersed rural population.

Case study

African MSM podcasts

Yorkshire MESMACs African MSM podcasts provide a series of five audio podcasts targeting African MSM who may not access written HIV prevention and sexual health materials. The podcasts are available in six languages spoken by black Africans in the UK - English, Yoruba, Shona, French, Swahili and Luganda. Each podcast lasts between 20 and 30 minutes and cover a range of HIV information - including how HIV is transmitted, treated and prevented. They are accessible by computer, mp3 or mobile phone. The podcasts use identifiably African voices, talking conversationally or on their own. They signpost listeners to helplines and other services targeting African MSM in the UK.

Case study

FS phone app

GMFAs FS magazine has been widely distributed on the commercial gay scene for almost a decade. In a recent development, FS has been made available in digital format to download directly to a subscriber’s iPhone, iPad or Android smartphone. The smartphone "app" allows users to receive sexual health information without having to visit a website or click a link. The app has a high level of interactivity including live links taking users directly to websites on their devices. As well as utilising a technology widely used by younger men the app does not rely on men having to access the commercial gay scene to pick up the magazine. Once someone subscribes, there is a means to deliver further information to the user without interaction.

Case study

Big Up film

Big Up at GMFAs film ‘Beyond Labels’ premiered at the London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in 2010. The film explores the experiences of black gay men in London from the time of gay liberation through to recent arrivals on the scene. The film provides tales of friendship and support to underlie an investigation into the creation of a sense of community. Following its launch, the film was shown at a community cinema in East London with a panel of the films collaborators taking part in a facilitated discussion with the audience. Showing the film in this context allows further exploration of the issues raised. It also allows community advocates to discuss how to improve the health of black gay men and for black gay men and their allies to voice their opinions and concerns about the options open to them.