Master of Mass Communication (MMC)


Mass Communication

Document Type



American youth and adolescents have the highest rate of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections in the industrialized world. Entertainment media, the preferred genre of today’s adolescents, depicts sex, drugs, and alcohol use at a greater rate than any other genre of programming. What are health communication strategists doing to counter the widespread, inaccurate portrayals often depicted in this type of programming? With previous knowledge gap and health communication research failing to examine youth oriented and racial targeted entertainment programming, this study utilizes a survey to analyze BET, MTV, and VH1 audiences’ health knowledge, recall, and attitude toward PSAs to identify lapses in health communication strategy. This study distributed an Internet survey to a large southern university undergraduate population to capture the perceptions of BET, MTV, and VH1 target audiences. Respondents with low viewing habits of MTV and VH1 exhibited greater knowledge of HIV and alcohol. No difference in knowledge was found among high and low viewers of BET. Respondents reported their perceptions of the effectiveness of three PSAs. The most effective PSA utilized the fear and loss appeal. This PSA also portrayed real life consequences not often portrayed in entertainment programming. Finally, the PSA that utilized the informational appeal was more effective in promoting the advocated behavior among female respondents. Contrasting previous social identity theory research, the inclusion of same-ethnicity models within the PSAs was not indicative of perceived effectiveness of the message. Interestingly, ethnic-related impressions did influence respondents’ perception of the PSAs personal relevance. The survey provided support for third-person effects with respondents overestimating others viewing habits. The results of the study indicate a greater need of informational HIV and alcohol PSAs on VH1 and MTV. The gaps in knowledge exhibited by the respondent group reveal the lapses in health communication broadcasted on the selected cable-music channels. In addition, the results illustrate the ideal frames and themes deemed effective by youth audiences. The ideal youth and adolescent targeted PSA would include same-ethnicity models, a strong informational argument, a strong emotional appeal, portrayal of real life risks, and inclusion of a loss-frame appeal associated with the risky behavior.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Dahmen, Nicole Smith