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How PMC's Soap Operas Improved the Lives of Over 500 Million People

May 4, 2022 • Rights of Women & Girls

Podcast mic. Photo by Jonathan Velasquez on Unsplash.

Population Media Center is pleased to share the following podcast interview. It was produced by Veronika Perková and features Bill Ryerson. The original post can be accessed here.


When soap operas are designed in a way that they not only entertain people but also educate about social issues, they can have a huge positive impact on society and the environment. This type of approach is called entertainment education and is at the core of what Population Media Center does.

Through hot TV soaps and radio dramas, this non-profit draws attention to family planning, gender equality, domestic violence, girls’ education, children’s health and education, and conservation. Since 1998, their 40 shows have helped more than 500 million people live healthier lives in more than 50 countries.

In this episode, Bill Ryerson, Population Media Center’s founder, talks about:

  • Why just raising awareness about environmental or health care issues does not make people change their behavior
  • Why storytelling and role modeling are extremely powerful tools for social change
  • How soap operas helped Mexico achieve the most dramatic decline in fertility rates in the 20th century
  • How TV soaps and radio dramas that address contemporary social issues are made
  • Why audiences fall in love with transitional characters rather than positive ones
  • How long it takes to bring change to a community
  • Why effective communication is central to human progress and why we should fight misinformation


If you’d like to learn more about the link between women’s empowerment and conservation, listen to the episode “How family planning programs help women in Colombia live better lives and get involved in local protection of nature“.

Picture of Joe Bish

Written by Joe Bish

Joe is the Director of Issue Advocacy at Population Media Center. He holds a Master of Science in Environmental Advocacy and Organizing from Antioch University New England.