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
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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.
Level of Analysis
The present research concerns collaboration among members of an E-E
team as they meet, negotiate, and act. The level of analysis focuses on
the members of the E-E team. The collaboration process is somewhat
simplified here, into two groups, health and television professionals, while
in reality many more stakeholders (health organizations, broadcast or-
ganizations, production companies, advertisers, media legislators, etc.)
are involved. The present research deals with (a) broader organizational
conditions and responses to the collaboration process, (b) interpersonal
communication and negotiation, and (c) biographical differences in per-
sonal and professional experiences.
Title and formatYearTV
Collaborative health communication
TROSDutch Road Safety Organization (VVN)
Ministry of Transport, Public Works and
Way of Life Show
(sports game show)
1988 TROSNetherlands Heart Foundation
Netherlands Bureau for Nutrition
The Royal Dutch Touring Club (ANWB)
Way of Life
1988 TROS Netherlands Heart Foundation
Netherlands Bureau for Nutrition
Federation of Hair-Dressers
TROSNetherlands Heart Foundation Heart disease
1991 AVRONetherlands Heart Foundation (NHS)
Dutch Health Education and Health
Hou Nou Toch Op
1991 KRO STIVORO (Dutch Smoking and Health
Je Zult Het Zien
1992KRO Netherlands Institute of Alcohol and Drugs
Netherlands Bureau for Nutrition
National Bureau Alcohol Education
Dutch Institute for Sports and Health
VARADutch Traffic Safety Organization (VVN)
Ministry of Transport, Public Works and
Water Management (Min. V&W)
VARAMinistry of Housing, Spatial Planning and
Op Leven en Dood
(Game and talkshow)
1993 NCRV Ministry of Welfare, Health and Cultural
Programme Committee “Keuzen in de
Gezond en Wel
RTL-4 Netherlands Bureau for Nutrition
(Game and talkshow)
1994 RTL-4Steering Group Healthy Food
Netherlands Heart Foundation
Low fat intake
on Dutch E-E
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Twelve Dutch E-E television programs were examined that met three
criteria: (a) the television program focused on knowledge, attitude, or
behavior change regarding health, (b) a substantial degree of collabora-
tion between health communication and television professionals had to
have taken place, and (c) the format of the television program had to be
a combination of education and entertainment. The 12 productions based
on the E-E strategy were Familie Oudenrijn (1987–1990); Way of life
Show (1988); Way of Life Magazine (1988); Medisch Centrum West
(1988–1994); Villa Borghese (1991); Hou Nou Toch Op (1991); Je Zult
Het Zien (1992); Twaalf Steden, Dertien Ongelukken (1990–1992);
Oppassen (1992–1996); Op Leven en Dood (1993); Gezond en Wel
(1994–1995); Viola’s Gezondheidsshow (1994). Nine of these television
programs dealt with health issues, one with an environmental issue, and
two with road safety issues (see Table 1). Videotapes of each program
In the personal interviews with E-E collaborators, certain concepts were
used as probes. These concepts were derived from reviewing literature
on intercultural communication (Pinxten, 1994); sense-making approach
(Cicourel, 1974; Schutz, 1964; Weick, 1995), newcomers’ socialization
theory (Louis, 1980), social identity theory (Elias, 1965; Elias & Scotson,
1979; Kramer & Messick, 1995), media production (Cantor, 1980, 1982;
Elliot, 1977; Gitlin, 1979; Thomson & Burns, 1990; Turow, 1984, 1989),
creativity (Edwards, 1986), and sociology (Bourdieu, 1993). Six sensi-
tizing concepts were identified as being especially relevant: capital forms,
cultural differences, professional standards, personal traits, selection
criteria, and genre features.
Capital forms refers to the different types (economic, cultural, and
social) of capital available and invested in the negotiation and collabo-
ration process. Cultural differences are a mediating variable in the present
analysis. Collaborating partners must know the specific rules of the game
of a professional field. Professional standards and personal traits consti-
tute the social identity that is brought by the participants to the collabo-
ration process. Selection criteria concern the selection of collaboration
partners, and genre features refers to the ground rules and principles of
the specific television program.
The personal interviews were unstructured and based on the six sensitiz-
ing concepts. Interviews were conducted with the health communica-
tion (N = 18) and television (N = 12) professionals of the E-E team
involved in the 12 television programs of study. Most of the time, the
conversation directed itself. Leading questions to introduce the six con-
cepts were brought into the conversation when necessary. The health
professionals were communication experts, social scientists, topical ex-
perts, and public relation managers. The television professionals that
were interviewed were producers, program managers, and creative people
like scriptwriters, drama experts, and directors. All persons were inten-
sively involved in the E-E collaboration process. The interviews were
audiotaped, verbally transcribed, and returned to the respondents for
checking and authorization.
All interviews were content-analyzed according to a detailed coding pro-
tocol using the computer program KWALITAN 5.1 (Wester, 1987; Pe-
ters, 1994). An independent coder was trained thoroughly in use of the
Grounded theory is referred to in scholarly literature as “the constant
comparative method of analysis” (Glaser & Strauss, 1967). Data collec-
tion and data analysis are tightly interwoven processes, and occur alter-
nately because the analysis directs sampling of the data. After a first
round of personal interviews, data analysis was conducted. Based on
this data analysis, a next round of interviews began.
Data analysis in grounded theory is composed of three subsequent
types of coding: (a) open coding, (b) axial coding, and (c) selective coding.
Open Coding. In open coding, data are broken into discrete parts and
examined closely. The data are not interpreted, but are coded according
to the literal text. The code segments are compared for similarities and
differences, and questions are asked about the phenomena reflected in
the data. For example, in one interview, a health communication profes-
sional described the professional traits needed in an E-E collaboration:
“You need to have so much knowledge of the content that you can map
out things fast, have a quick overview. There’s no question of just hav-
ing to go back to your organization. That is not what you stand for.
They [the television professionals] won’t take that time either.” This seg-
ment of the interview was open coded as representing “attitude of the
health communication professional” and “time and energy.”
Axial Coding. Open coding fractures the data and allows for the iden-
tification of categories, their properties, and dimensional locations, while
axial coding puts these data back together in new ways by making con-
nections between a category and its subcategories. For example, by con-
stantly comparing the time and energy coding in the complete data set,
different properties and dimensions were identified. Time was mentioned
not just in the sense of a physical dimension, such as hours of work, or
time spent reading and checking manuscripts, but also in the sense of a
mental and social dimension.
Selective Coding. After collection and analysis of the interview data,
categories are integrated in order to form a grounded theory. Selective
coding is the process of identifying a core category, systematically relat-
Turtles and Peacocks
ing it to other categories, validating these relationships, and filling in
categories that need further refinement and development (Strauss &
Corbin, 1990, p. 116). The integration of selective coding is not much
different from axial coding but it is done at a higher, more abstract level
Results and Analysis
The main research question of the present study asked: How do health
communication professionals and television professionals collaborate in
the design and implementation of an E-E television program? Here the
answers to this question are organized around various headings.
Management of E-E Collaboration
The management of an E-E collaboration is a joint function, in which
both types of professionals have to manage their specific part of the
process, but they also have to go beyond their own part. Health commu-
nication and television professionals indicated that an E-E collaboration
is a strange kind of marriage. Both professionals consider themselves to
be communication specialists, each with their own approach. Television
professionals said that they did not know much about the health com-
munication profession. Both collaboration partners felt the urge to ex-
plain their professional points of view to each other, but for the most
part failed to do so, because of the time pressure of the production pro-
cess and of differences in work culture.
Making a television program is the result of a negotiated agreement
in which all partners have to give and take, and be willing to cross bound-
aries to create win-win options. Crossing boundaries, however, may cause
imbalances in the collaboration. Both professionals have to figure out,
often by trial and error, how much influence and interference is
most effective. Too much or too little interference may be coun-
Comparison of the interview data gave rise to an interesting picture.
Several health communication professionals felt that the collaboration,
although interdependent in theory, was rather dependent in practice.
Interdependency presupposes an equal balance of power, but the televi-
sion world was perceived as far more powerful. Some denied there was
any collaboration and called it rather, “a ride on a wild horse,” or “trav-
eling in a fast train with destination unknown.” Comparing the collabo-
ration to a football game, one health communication professional said:
“Usually the television professionals are playing the ball; only some-
times when you play fluently, can you score.” The data revealed that
television professionals showed more self-confidence and self-esteem than
did health communication professionals. The latter said they were often
less secure about their own role in the collaboration process. In the opin-
ion of television professionals, health communication professionals were
the “visiting” (or the dependent) party in the collaboration.
To probe the issue of power, the coded interview segments were fur-
ther analyzed. This showed that the balance of power shifted during the
collaboration process. In the early stages of the collaboration (orienta-
tion and crystallization) health communication professionals felt they
had more steering power and were able to manage the collaboration
process better than in the later stages (production and implementation).
The signing of the contract (crystallization) proved to be a turning point.
Television professionals confessed that in the initial negotiation stage
they sometimes promised more than they were able or willing to deliver.
As one of them stated, “We butter them up from here to Tokyo. We
promise the earth and give them as little as we can, or just as much as
does us no harm.” Health communication professionals said that after
the contracts were signed, they felt a world of difference. One said, “As
long as the money is not handed over, the power is in our hands, but as
soon as the money is given, the television organization takes over. I did
not like this power play.”
Once the production stage began, the collaboration process took its
own course and the balance of power shifted. Now television profes-
sionals were in control. Health communication professionals had to do
their utmost to adjust to the dynamics of television production. They
described this process as unpredictable and uncontrollable, using meta-
phors such as, “fast moving trains,” “galloping horses,” or “a whirl-
wind.” The program production process was so hectic that health com-
munication professionals wanted to slow it down in order to keep con-
trol. This time was not given by television professionals, as they were
accustomed to these dynamics. For health communication profession-
als, it seemed to be a “survival of the fittest” for which television profes-
sionals were better equipped.
The notion of risk management emerged strongly from the personal inter-
views as a core category. E-E collaboration was compared by one health
communication professional to a “heart transplant” with the risk of the
new heart being rejected. This metaphor points to artificiality. Implant-
ing an educational message in an entertainment television format is a chal-
lenging risky experiment. Health communication professionals described
the process with phrases like, “love and hate,” “in the heat of the fire,”
and “walking on tiptoe.” Television professionals used words like, “tight-
rope dancing,” “ballet of compromises,” and “hauling in a Trojan horse.”
Health Communication Risk
For the health communication professionals, the risks that needed to be
managed were especially related to the message (message management).
Turtles and Peacocks
Health organizations were very concerned about image. The health mes-
sage had to be presented in a trustworthy context, be based on scientifi-
cally correct, objective information, and on a consensus among subject-
matter specialists in the specific field of health expertise. Television pro-
fessionals emphasized the laws of television making and demanded dif-
ferent things. Scientific findings needed to be visualized in an entertain-
ing way. Sometimes, television professionals thought the content of the
message needed to be sacrificed for entertainment. Health organizations
that were accustomed to designing their health communication materi-
als in-house (brochures, leaflets, books, magazines, videos, and docu-
mentary films) and found this new process difficult to manage. They
were accustomed to spelling out their goals, creating a message follow-
ing a carefully structured plan, and checking and double-checking the
message. The design process stayed under their control from start to
finish, as well as the distribution of the message. For health organiza-
tions, this was the low-risk context in which they were used to working.
The collaborative management of a health message in entertainment
television includes high risks. The message is complicated by the multi-
dimensional character of the medium, which combines text, image, and
sound. Television is also open-aired, mediated, and not restricted to a
captive audience. Moreover, when education and entertainment are com-
bined, the straight educational message tends to disappear behind the
entertainment. The television program is produced under conditions of
uncertainty and complexity. The final program often differs from the
original script, due to technical or practical production matters,
casting, costs, etc.
The entertainment-education strategy weighs, as equally important,
form, content, and presentation. Risk reduction means controlling them
all because health communication professionals know that not only the
message, but also the interaction of content, form, and presentation
determine whether the educational message will be effective. Health com-
munication professionals felt responsible for managing these differ-
ent message elements. Television professionals, however, expected health
communication professionals to only deliver content, such as scientific
facts and figures. Health communication professionals, knowing the
importance of integrating content, form, and presentation, wanted to
do more. This overlap of professional roles made the risk more complicated.
Management Strategies of Health
Most health communication professionals were newcomers to E-E pro-
duction and faced difficulties in making sense of cues. The formal power
they used in steering the collaboration process was related to the kind of
E-E partnership arrangement. The power to define was greatest in an E-E
production, and least in E-E lobbying. Because health organizations paid
in large part for the television program, they expected television profes-
sionals to serve their needs in-line with the formal power structure de-
fined by the contract. A customer-client attitude proved ineffective, how-
ever, and forced health communication professionals to shift to more
informal coping strategies. They assisted in desk research, facilitated in
organizing personal interviews, and helped in finding shooting locations.
This strategy proved to be an excellent tool of control. The more health
communication professionals invested in being of service to television
professionals, the more influence they had on the health message. Expe-
rienced health communication professionals (during collaboration with
television professionals) were able to consciously shift between the for-
mal and informal strategy.
Health communication professionals continuously asked for more
detailed information (on paper) about the latest program ideas. How-
ever, program ideas continually changed during the production process.
Health communication professionals thought that withholding informa-
tion was sometimes a (perhaps informal) strategy by television profes-
sionals to avoid editorial control. When health communication profes-
sionals wanted to know more about the television program, or asked
questions about visualization of the message, television professionals
often said, “Everything will be alright, don’t worry.” Some health com-
munication professionals came to realize that television professionals
only listened when they made a big fuss.
Television professionals were not accustomed to advanced planning,
but enjoyed brainstorming about alternatives until the last minute. When
health communication professionals expressed their uneasiness about
this problem, they were told to have more faith in television profession-
alism. This conflicted with the organizational work culture of health
communication professionals, who often needed to inform their board
of directors, or to consult internal or external colleagues about program
decisions. Television professionals stated in the interviews that they no-
ticed that health organizations had a fear of popularity, and a fear of
becoming involved in popular culture. Television professionals regularly
experienced the disdain of health organizations for popular entertain-
ment. They experienced initial suspicion and mistrust coming from health
communication professionals. A television professional said about a
health communication professional, “He was such a turtle, showing his
head now and then, and quickly withdrawing when he got afraid.” Health
communication professionals were regarded by television professionals
as trustworthy and solid, but quick to withdraw when the situation be-
came dangerous or difficult.
The specific E-E television program studied here was part of a larger
campaign that demanded careful orchestration of various campaign ele-
ments. Health communication professionals became tired of, and an-
Turtles and Peacocks
noyed at, waiting for more specific information, and had difficulties in
responding to questions that were raised about the television program
within their own organization.
Health communication professionals indicated that they served as
mediators between the subject-matter specialists and the television pro-
fessionals. They described their role in the E-E collaboration process as
“bridge-builder,” “chameleon,” “diplomat,” “gatekeeper,” and “police-
man.” Health communication professionals perceived their role as both
mediator-facilitator and controller-regulator. A close reading of the in-
terviews revealed that health communication professionals used mediat-
ing and facilitating strategies in order to gain control over the message.
Health communication professionals functioned in the collaboration
process as “water carriers” but not as “generals.” They had to be of
service to television professionals in order to have influence and control
over the content.
During the actual production of the program, the television profes-
sionals worked around the clock to get the work done. When they had
questions related to the health message, they called the health communi-
cation professionals, day or night, for a quick response. When the health
communication professionals could not react immediately, the televi-
sion professionals made their own decisions.
Entertainment Risk Management
Television professionals indicated that in the dynamics of producing an
entertainment television program, it was very difficult for them to work
with systematic communication plans, such as those used in health com-
munication. Television professionals became annoyed by the slow deci-
sion-making processes in health organizations and their bureaucratic
work style, as one television professional indicated: “We don’t have a
culture of consultation and formal meetings. Of course, we consult each
other, but it’s more doing than talking. And all you come across are
those health communication professionals who first have to consult their
superiors or others in the field, mainly for strategic reasons, to avoid
conflicts or problems.”
Television, typically, has little room for new, experimental approaches.
The entertainment-education format in television is not standard or well-
tested. Television professionals who engage in E-E collaboration take
risks. From the perspective of the broadcasting organization, choosing
an E-E format is more risky than a pure educational approach or a pure
Management Strategies of Television
Television professionals were less explicit than health communication
professionals in defining their role in the E-E collaboration process. Some
thought of themselves as “creatives” (e.g., scriptwriters, drama experts,
and directors) and others as program managers or producers. Television
professionals in public broadcasting typically differ from those in com-
mercial broadcasting. In commercial broadcast organizations, a “client
manager” is usually appointed to coordinate the collaboration process.
These professionals serve as intermediaries between the media and health
organizations, ensuring a smooth management of the collaborative pro-
cess. In public broadcasting organizations, such professional liaisons are
usually absent. The role of health communication professionals, how-
ever, remains the same, whether the collaboration process takes place
within a public or commercial broadcast setting.
Creative television professionals said that program managers explic-
itly told them to cooperate with the health organization’s professionals.
Without their sponsorship, the program either could not be made or, if
being broadcast, would be off prime-time air. Scriptwriters felt they were
caught between a rock and a hard place. They often felt that they could
not satisfy the health professionals.
Some television professionals said they succeeded in “defrosting” health
communication professionals by taking time with them to socialize, drink,
and dine together. Television professionals regarded such socializing as
a key activity in preventing health communication professionals from
frustrating their work. They advised health communication profession-
als to invest in developing personal relationships with people on the
work floor. According to health communication professionals, televi-
sion professionals could be very arrogant, like “peacocks” showing their
feathers. Some of these proved to be very vulnerable, however, when it
came to their ego. As one health communication professional said, “Be-
fore we talked to the scriptwriter, we were warned about his sensitive
nature and requested not to upset him too much.”
The present research on the E-E collaboration process showed an intrin-
sic tension between entertainment and education. Health communica-
tion and television professionals both felt this tension, and employed
risk management strategies to contain the risks. In an E-E collaboration,
management takes place in a high-risk context. This is much more diffi-
cult to manage than, for example, a low-risk context in which television
programs are either educational or entertaining.
Bourdieu (1993) says that a basic antagonism between fields is often
very difficult to overcome. One solution may be construction of a neu-
tral territory, a common ground, where both parties can meet without
the strict, excluding rules of their field. In order to create a win-win
outcome instead of a win-lose outcome, the design of an optimal E-E
television program is not possible when the frame of reference of one
Turtles and Peacocks
collaboration partner dominates that of the other. This asymmetry of
power leads to unwanted field antagonisms. This imbalance can only be
resolved by jointly creating a new frame of reference. E-E television is
(a) designed according to behavior change theories, (b) it follows a time
schedule that allows the collaboration partners to mutual explore each
other’s ideas and expertise, (c) it engages target audiences in the differ-
ent stages of design and production, (d) it is guided by extensive (forma-
tive) research, and (e) it is integrated into a larger communication cam-
paign. This new media genre needs to be accepted as part of the habitus
in both fields in order for E-E collaboration to be feasible and effective.
In order to define and to determine what should be done to avoid this
unsatisfying outcome, a paradigmatic model will be presented here. It
states that (a) the need for health organizations to reach certain target
groups in society leads to (b) a combination of entertainment and edu-
cation in television programs, which leads to (c) management in a high-
risk context, which leads to (d) certain high-risk management strategies,
such as formalized contracts, controlling editorial input, a service-ori-
ented attitude, and a significant investment by health communication
professionals in time, energy, and personal contacts. Further, deadlines
and production demands by television professionals inadvertently leads
to (e) field antagonisms and hence asymmetry of power (win-lose out-
come) that has a negative influence on the desired outcome.
Win-win situations become feasible when both partners see that mu-
tual victory is a better result than single victory. In other words, a
grounded theory of E-E collaboration states: Designing an E-E televi-
sion program means collaborating in a high-risk context. Win-win out-
comes will emerge when both collaborating partners jointly construct a
new frame of reference that consecrates the E-E program in both profes-
What lessons can be derived from the present study of the E-E collabo-
ration process in the Netherlands? The E-E collaboration between health
communication and television professionals is complex. Bourdieu’s (1991)
general theory of practice provides insights into these complexities. The
key theoretical concept is habitus: Health communication experts and
television professionals belong to very different fields, and thus employ
a different habitus. In a collaboration where these fields seek to reach a
common goal (for instance, the E-E production), both parties must at-
tune (make congruent) their habitus to that of their collaborative partner.
In the studied E-E collaboration processes health communication and
television professionals experienced incongruency because they had dif-
ferent interpretations of the habitus that the collaboration required. Tele-
vision professionals talked about “viewers” and “viewers’ satisfaction,”
whereas health communication professionals were concerned with “tar-
get groups” and “behavior change.” Television professionals looked at
potential topics in terms of visualization and attracting the attention of
the audience, which are goals in themselves. Health communication pro-
fessionals were interested in social learning through media role models
and influencing the audience’s awareness, attitudes, and behavior change.
What is an end for television professionals is a means for health commu-
nication professionals. Consequently, both wanted to maintain power
during the E-E collaboration process.
Health communication professionals wanted to utilize the principles
of behavior change theories and to influence the various aspects of the
E-E program: content, form, angle, and context. Television profession-
als expected health communication professionals to deliver the content
of the message, while they designed the format in which the health mes-
sage could best be televisualized. Instead of creating a common ground
(or habitus), both fields just employed their own habitus. The question
then became whose habitus was the most powerful and could force the
other to comply with its rules.
According to Bourdieu (1993), in order to be accepted (“consecrated”)
by a field, one must possess the habitus that predisposes one to enter
that field. Without full recognition of its habitus, a field will reject or
exclude new “players.” Since Dutch television organizations often took
the initiative for the E-E collaboration, health communication profes-
sionals were forced (not always consciously) to incorporate the televi-
sion field’s habitus in order to be allowed to play along. Health commu-
nication professionals, especially when they were newcomers to the tele-
vision field, felt they were drifting away from their own field. Working
with the television professionals’ frame of reference caused an asymme-
try of power, which was not what the health experts had in mind when
they began the collaboration. Moreover, their acquisition of the habitus
of television professionals jeopardized their relationships with their own
organization. They also feared the misrepresentation of their health
message, the loss of their respectability, and potential damage to their
personal networks. Health communication professionals thus became
hesitant to assimilate with the television field’s habitus.
According to Bourdieu (1991), a field with the greatest economic and
commercial interests will try to dominate other fields. Ultimately, com-
petition for high viewing rates always determined the way an E-E televi-
sion program was designed. The television field dominated the health
communication field. Health communication professionals had difficulty
projecting that an effective E-E television program could not be made
without their professional input. The collaboration motives of national
health organizations in the Netherlands ranged from influencing behav-
Turtles and Peacocks
ior change, to raising money, creating publicity, and selling products.
Television professionals in such situations could have just followed their
own knowledge and expertise. To design E-E television programs, how-
ever, their knowledge and expertise were not sufficient, the specific ex-
pertise of health communication professionals was needed to tune the
program to the goal of prosocial behavior change. Thus the merging of
professional cultures became inevitable.
Specific measures have to be taken to build an E-E collaboration based
on symmetry of power. What is required is a joint frame of reference
that incorporates elements of the habitus of both professional fields.
New incentives to create a joint frame of reference might have positive
effects. One effective incentive might be to project the appeal of pioneer-
ing a new television genre which imbues creativity with prosocial con-
tent. Health organizations as well as television organizations, therefore,
should invest in establishing the features for this new genre and begin to
stimulate the formation of capital relevant to an “E-E habitus.” Cul-
tural, social, and symbolic capital can be formed by establishing profes-
sional standards to create effective E-E programs, and by meeting the
established creative and prosocial goals. To do so, health organizations
must become more television literate, television organizations must recog-
nize that commercial interests can go with social accountability,
and both must move from a production-centred to a truly audi-
In the collaborative E-E process studied here, there was an asymme-
try of power between the two collaborating professional fields. The cre-
ation of a joint frame of reference is offered as a possible solution, but it
is unrealistic to expect that the collaborative partners will eagerly em-
brace the concept of common ground. Television professionals have much
to lose by accepting their collaboration partners as equals: authorship,
creative freedom, and editorial control. In practice, this loss of status for
television professionals appears to be an important barrier to successful
collaboration. However, at a time where funding is restricted and televi-
sion organizations are searching for a new identity, defining a new genre
with collaboration partners is an interesting option.
Television is big business. How can health organizations with a
nonprofit culture deal with a collaborative partner in a profit-making
venture? New types of health professionals, who are marketing oriented
should be increasingly employed and new “effectiveness” criteria for
health communication projects should be considered, such as being
E-E television has been found to be effective in non-Western settings
where television is a relatively new medium, domestic entertainment
productions may be rare, health issues are fundamental to life and death
issues, and millions of viewers can be counted upon. The work cultures
in non-Western settings of health communication and television profes-
sionals are more oriented to development. The entertainment-education
strategy in Western countries certainly must meet other demands. There
is more competition for viewers’ attention, public taste is more varied,
the number of potential viewers is smaller, and many educational issues
(such as preventive health) are not immediately life threatening.
What recommendations emerge from this Dutch study of collabora-
tion in entertainment-education television? Health organizations inter-
ested in establishing an E-E collaboration with television professionals
need to develop a proactive media policy in which choices about television
genres, and the nature and type of collaboration sought, are carefully
made beforehand. Television organizations seeking collaboration with
health organizations must be willing to invest in the creation of common
ground. To do so, an E-E workshop and a briefing retreat for the members
of the E-E team and other relevant stakeholders should be a standard
initiation procedure in every E-E collaboration (as is the case in the South
African “Soul City” project; see Singhal & Rogers, 1999). Incentives have
to be in place for television organizations to explore such collaborations.
E-E television programs are designed in a high-risk context. They do
not fit the traditional production mold of pure entertainment or pure
educational programs. E-E television programs are a new genre, and as
such, should be accepted and consecrated in both the television and the
health communication fields. This consecration on part of the health
communication professionals can occur more readily if they become more
television literate. In order for both health communication and televi-
sion professionals to become skilled collaborative partners, the study of
E-E strategies should be included in departments of television broad-
casting, media studies, and health communication.
Martine Bouman (PhD, Wageningen University) is managing director of the Netherlands Enter-
tainment-Education Foundation and an independent health communication researcher and
1 The entertainment-education strategy is the process of purposively designing and implementing
mediated communication with the potential of both entertaining and educating people, in order to
enhance and facilitate different stages of behavior change.
2 Such “Hollywood lobbyists” do not exist in the Netherlands. Black, elderly, women, or disabled
grass roots organizations advocate proper media coverage. In the Netherlands, different political
and religious parties have their own broadcasting organizations and channels, financially supported
by members and subscribers’ fees. Many “voices” in society speak and are heard.
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