Turtles and Peacocks
Turtles and Peacocks:
Collaboration in Entertainment-
Copyright © 2002 International Communication Association
This Dutch study focused on how health communication professionals and tele-
vision professionals collaborate in the design and implementation of entertain-
ment-education (E-E) television programs. A conceptualization of the collabo-
ration process is offered by drawing upon Bourdieu’s general theory of prac-
tice. An E-E collaboration is a strange kind of marriage between these two
fields. Health communication professionals are perceived by television profes-
sionals as turtles (trustworthy and solid, but slow), while television profession-
als are perceived by health communication professionals as peacocks (arrogant,
with big egos and preening their feathers). These differences can be resolved by
jointly creating a new frame of reference and constituting a new genre
of E-E television.
On a Friday evening in the Netherlands in 1992, a popular prime-time
series Medisch Centrum West is on air. The 2.3 million viewers watch
the panic-stricken face of a heart attack patient ask the doctor, “Am I
going to die?” The patient survives and in the following scene he asks
the doctor, “Will I have chronic heart trouble?” The cardiologists re-
plies, “No, not necessarily, but you should consider this a serious warn-
ing. Change your lifestyle, stop smoking, eat more healthily, and get
plenty of physical exercise.” Later, a dietician explains to the patient
and his wife how to prepare healthy meals.
This example of entertainment-education (E-E)1 by the Netherlands
Heart Foundation is one of several cardiovascular health messages in-
corporated into episodes of the popular Dutch serial Medisch Centrum
West. In both Western and non-Western countries, health promotion
messages are incorporated into prime-time television entertainment
(Bouman, 1999; Coleman & Meyer, 1989; Montgomery, 1989; NEEF
& JHU/CCP, 2001; Singhal & Rogers, 1999).
Several positive effects of E-E television programs have been reported,
but the use of the entertainment-education strategy in television can only
be successful if the involved parties work collaboratively. Previous E-E
research tends to focus on audience effects, while hardly any research
has been conducted on the collaboration between the various stakehold-
ers. Media scholars provide insights from their studies of media organi-
zations (Bouman, 1997, 1999; Bouman & Van Woerkum, 1998; Bouman
& Wieberdink, 1993; Cantor, 1979, 1980, 1982; Elliott, 1972, 1977;
Elliott & Chaney, 1969; Gitlin, 1979; Grossberg, Wartella, & Whitney,
1998; Halloran & Gurevitch, 1971; Hirsch, 1972; Karpf, 1988; McQuail,
1994; Sandeen & Compesi, 1990; Thompson & Burns, 1990; Tunstall,
1991, 1994; Turow, 1984, 1989).
The results desribed here are derived from an empirical study of the
E-E collaboration process between television professionals and health
professionals. The main research question is: How do health communi-
cation professionals and television professionals collaborate in the de-
sign and implementation of an E-E television program? By investigating
the collaboration process between the two professional fields, the present
article transposes the experiences of E-E practice into a theoretical frame-
work and adds new concepts to the discourse of E-E communication
Type of E-E Partnership Arrangements
Four types of E-E partnership arrangements are distinguished (Bouman,
1997, 1999; Bouman & Van Woerkum, 1998).
E-E production is defined as the initiative of one organization to
design and produce an entertainment program for social change pur-
poses and then sell it to a broadcasting organization. In this E-E partner-
ship arrangement, a health organization assigns television professionals
to make a specific E-E program. The producing organization has full
authority over all stages of the production process, from reading scripts
to directing last cuts. An example of this type of E-E collaboration is
the Soul City entertainment-education project in South Africa (Everatt
et al., 1995).
E-E coproduction is a formal transaction between a health organiza-
tion and a broadcasting organization to jointly design, produce, and
broadcast a new entertainment program for social change purposes. An
example is the U.S. television program, Sesame Street, designed to edu-
cate preschoolers (especially in inner cities) and produced in collabora-
tion with a public broadcasting organization (Lesser, 1975).
E-E inscript participation is a formal transaction between a health
organization and a broadcasting organization (or an independent pro-
ducer) to use an already existing entertainment program as a carrier for
social change. The health organization pays to have a social issues incor-
porated into the scripts of popular television programs (e.g., soaps, drama
series, quiz/gameshows, or talkshows). An example of this is the previ-
ously mentioned Dutch hospital series Medisch Centrum West, which
Turtles and Peacocks
integrated cardiovascular health messages into several of its episodes
(Bouman et al., 1998).
E-E lobbying is a strategy by a health organization to put informal or
formal pressure on broadcasting organizations or independent produc-
ers to deal with social change issues in their entertainment programs.
No formal agreement to collaborate is created, so the health organiza-
tion is dependent on the goodwill of the other party. An example is the
designated driver project in the U.S. where lobbyists succeeded in incor-
porating the designated driver concept in popular prime-time television
serials (Montgomery, 1993; Winsten, 1994).2
The basis for collaboration is quite different in each of these four
partnership arrangements. Health organizations typically have their stron-
gest influence over content in E-E production and the weakest in E-E
lobbying. E-E partnership arrangements (besides E-E lobbying) exhibit
the following four stages: (a) orientation; (b) crystallization; (c) produc-
tion; (d) and implementation (see Figure 1).
During this stage, health organizations that use television should take
into account both external (e.g., media regulations, societal trends) and
internal conditions (sufficient forms of economic, cultural, and social
capital, as well as desired corporate identity). The type of E-E collabora-
tion is now chosen, whether a new television program (E-E production
or E-E coproduction), joining with an already existing formula (E-E
inscript participation), or lobbying strategies (E-E lobbying).
After an initial decision to design an E-E television program, contracts
need to be negotiated between the partners. A specific briefing is needed
Stages of E-E
Source: Bouman, 1999
at this stage. An editorial team (here called the E-E team) is formed.
Representatives of both the health communication organization and tele-
vision profession are appointed to this team. Formative research should
be conducted and, if a pre-post research design is used, a baseline study
should be conducted.
In brainstorming sessions, both tacit and explicit professional knowledge
needs to be shared for inputs to the script and for program production.
Making a television program involves complex teamwork. All members
of the E-E team make decisions that affect the final product. The pro-
ducer, director, head scriptwriter, and show’s host are most important
from the point of view of the health communication expert. After shoot-
ing and editing the final product is complete.
After the production stage, the television program is ready for broad-
cast. However, most E-E television programs are part of a multimedia
campaign. As soon as the television program is aired, follow-up activi-
ties give the public further information about the educational issues raised
in the television program. Posttest summative research is conducted.
Other activities include handling publicity raised by the television pro-
gram, interpretation of evaluation results, and designing new policies
based on the E-E learning process.
The above framework of four stages is rather static and linear. These
stages sometimes overlap and are distinguished here only for ana-
Bourdieu’s Field of Practice
The French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu offered a model of the dimen-
sions and struggles that is applicable to an E-E practice involving health
communication experts and media professionals. Bourdieu used the term
“field,” but “market” is also commonly used. A field is “a structured
space of positions in which the positions and their interrelations are
determined by the distribution of different kinds of resources or capital”
(Bourdieu, 1991, p.14).
Bourdieu said there are different forms of capital or power. He identi-
fied three forms: economic, cultural, and social (Bourdieu, 1984, 1989,
1991, 1993).3 Economic capital is material wealth, financial resources,
or economic goods (money, stocks, property, etc.). Cultural capital is
cultural competencies and qualifications, talents, knowledge and exper-
tise, and level of mental and intellectual growth. Social capital is having
the skills to socialize, having interesting relationships and membership
of networks, place in society, image, and goodwill.
Successful collaboration involves partners who possess sufficient capital
Turtles and Peacocks
to make working together attractive, worthwhile, and profitable.
Bourdieu stressed that these forms of capital can be transformed or val-
ued in terms of money, in the short or long term, but that they cannot be
reduced to money. Bourdieu called cultural and social capital “symbolic
capital” or “symbolic power,” because this form of capital is nonmate-
rial and less visible than economic capital.
Bourdieu calls his approach a general theory of practice. The key con-
cept is “habitus,” sometimes described as a “feel for the game” that
inclines agents to act and react in specific situations, in a manner that is
not always calculated or a question of conscious obedience to rules
(Bourdieu, 1991, p. 12). Practice is the product of an encounter between
a habitus and a field, which are congruent with one another. When there
is a lack of congruence, an individual may not know how to act. Habi-
tus is the sum of learned and incorporated knowledge, behavior and
intuition that helps one belong to a field. Without habitus, a field will
exclude a new player. Entering the game means attempting to use knowl-
edge or skill in the most advantageous way possible (Bourdieu, 1993, p. 8).
According to Bourdieu, individuals in a field strive for maximization
of capital. Autonomy is key to the power to include or exclude (Bourdieu,
1993, p. 14). In E-E collaboration, many stakeholders (broadcasting
organizations, production companies, advertisers, social issue groups,
media legislators, and scriptwriters) struggle for control. Some who par-
ticipate in the creation of a television program have more power in de-
termining the content than do others (Cantor, 1980).
Three main factors attribute power to people: (a) specific expertise
(in Bourdieu’s terms, a large amount of cultural or symbolic capital)
which is unique, (b) holding a central position in the organization, and
(c) the ability to reduce risk concerning the final product (Ettema, 1980).
Bourdieu (1989) studied the survival mechanisms of different fields
such as religion, politics, and art. A certain amount of functional antago-
nism is inherent in every field. This antagonism constitutes a threshold
for collaboration with newcomers. Elias and Scotson (1976) theorized
about the social identity of an established insider versus an outsider (Elias,
1965). Every group has its own norms, values, and rules of the game.
Parties in a collaboration must become familiar with each other’s cul-
ture. If parties only reason and act from their own cultural perspective,
collaboration is very difficult (Levi-Strauss, 1987; Pinxten, 1994).
The present study uses qualitative data analyzed in a grounded theory
approach (Glaser, 1978; Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Grounded theory is a
qualitative research method that uses a systematic set of procedures to
develop an inductively derived theory about some phenomenon.