U.S. Spends $2.7M to Study Impact of TV on Area of Vietnam That Lacks Electricity

Vo Thi QuanBy Eric Scheiner

The Department of Health and Human Services is spending $2,797,979 on a study that brings television to more than a dozen remote villages in Vietnam to study its impact on their culture and reproductive behavior.

“In cooperation with the Vietnam government, we have selected 14 villages in a remote, mountainous area of Vietnam that currently lacks electricity,” according to the grant description for ‘Television and International Family Change: A Randomized Experiment.’

“Treatment villages will receive televisions and generators with gasoline to operate the televisions. Control villages will not receive generators or televisions.”

The principal investigator of the study, Dr. Rukmalie Jayakody of the Penn State Population Research Center, tells CNSNews.com that while groundwork for the study began in 2010, the televisions and generators were just installed this past August.

The televisions used in the study will only receive four channels. “What villages have access to is not cable television or satellite television, but just Vietnam TV,” Jayakody says.

“One is really a news channel, one is a sports channel, one is a mix of entertainment and a little bit of education. For example, ‘if I was a farmer, what should I feed my pig to make my pig healthy?’ propaganda kind of things, and then the fourth channel is also a mix of entertainment and news,” Jayakody says.

A study on the impacts television has on the remote communities will be conducted annually for three years. The project has received federal grant money every year since its inception in 2010, totaling an amount over $2.7 million. It is set to receive $705,972 for fiscal year 2014 alone.

“After collecting baseline information on all 14 villages using mutually reinforcing qualitative (family and community ethnographies) and quantitative (survey interviews) data collection strategies, we will randomly assign half the villages to the treatment group and the other half to the control group,” researchers explained.

The specific aims of the study are to:

(1) “Examine the causal impacts of television on family formation attitudes and behaviors, including age at marriage, parent’s role in the mate selection process, desired family size, age at first birth, and contraceptive use;

(2) Examine the causal impacts of television on reproductive health knowledge (knowledge of STI’s and their prevention, knowledge of modern contraceptives), premarital sexual activity, use of reproductive health services, and condom use; and

(3) Examine the specific mechanisms through which television effects operate.”

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