Viacom, Kaiser Family Foundation Announce Multimedia HIV/AIDS Education Campaign
Media conglomerate Viacom Inc. and the Kaiser Family Foundation today announced a multimedia public service campaign beginning in January 2003 that will focus on HIV/AIDS awareness and education, the New York Times reports. Viacom -- which owns CBS, UPN, Black Entertainment Television, Nickelodeon and MTV networks -- plans to use unsold advertising time on its television and radio stations to give information about HIV/AIDS. Kaiser will advise Viacom on the initiative. Viacom plans to "go beyond traditional public service announcements" by incorporating AIDS awareness messages into the scripts of its television shows and possibly films. UPN's "Girlfriends," NBC's "Frasier" and CBS' "Becker" have already agreed to incorporate messages about HIV/AIDS into future episodes. Viacom President Mel Karmazin said that the company would not require producers and writers of the television shows to include HIV/AIDS content, the Times reports. According to Karmazin, the company began discussing the possibility of the campaign approximately a year ago at a time when both BET and MTV had organized their own AIDS awareness initiatives. Viacom has identified approximately $120 million worth of advertising time that it will dedicate to the campaign, and it estimates that the public service announcements and information gathering will cost approximately $3 million.
Although the idea of promoting health messages through television programs and movies is "not new," Kaiser President Drew Altman said Viacom's campaign, which is expected to last two years or longer, is "perhaps the broadest effort yet" by a single company on a public health issue, the Times reports. He added that he and other health experts are hopeful about the campaign because the audiences of many of Viacom's networks are mostly minorities and young people, the populations most affected by HIV/AIDS (Fabrikant/Gay Stolberg, New York Times, 10/9). "The combination of Viacom's creative capabilities and reach and the Kaiser Family Foundation's expertise on HIV and public education will help millions of people learn more about AIDS and how it can be prevented. Global AIDS is the greatest health challenge of our generation and the media can be a powerful tool in educating people about the disease," Altman said (Viacom/Kaiser release, 10/9). However, Altman acknowledged that Viacom's decision to take on an HIV/AIDS campaign could be "risky" because discussing HIV/AIDS can also involve discussions about sex and drug use. Kaiser has donated $1 million toward the project and Karmazin's charitable foundation and Viacom Chair Sumner Redstone are donating $250,000 each. Viacom will pay for the remainder of the campaign's costs, which are estimated to be about $3 million (New York Times, 10/9). Materials describing the partnership and providing background on the HIV/AIDS epidemic are available online