iParticipate TV initiative increases volunteering

The Entertainment Industry Foundation’s iParticipate campaign to urge viewers to give back to their community is paying off. One of Hollywood’s major charitable organizations, Entertainment Industry Foundation, encouraged networks, studios and stars to insert volunteering into their story lines and advertisements this week. More than 100 programs on ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and cable networks such as Nickelodeon and Lifetime have highlighted community service, either through their shows’ plots or public-service announcements. “We thought we’d have 20 or 30 programs involved,” said Lisa Paulsen, chief executive of the EIF. “It’s just caught on like wildfire.”

Examples include the doctors on ABC’s “Private Practice” giving homeless teenagers free checkups. On NBC’s “30 Rock”, a character tries to adopt all the dogs at an animal shelter. And on CBS’ “Numb3rs,” two characters talk about joining Big Brothers and Big Sisters. The result has been an increase in volunteering.

However, the project has sparked suspicion and some criticism that Hollywood is doing this just to show support for President Barack Obama’s call for national service and as an effort to prop up left-wing causes. Lisa Paulsen, chief executive of the EIF, responded to these allegations by saying, “All of our political leaders have made national service a priority…This is a nonpartisan initiative. I don’t see that there’s anything negative that can be taken from this in any way, shape or form, because it really is about true citizenship.”

This event is also about using entertainment to create a positive impact on society. It is an example of the type of influence that TV and entertainment can have on people. The story lines in popular shows this week quite literally changed the behavior of their viewers and motivated them to take a positive action, volunteering, that they probably would not have otherwise taken if they had not watched those programs.

For better or for worse and either consciously or unconsciously, TV, media and the entertainment industry have a huge impact on the behavior, consciousness and actions of their viewers, society and our culture. Hopefully, this event will inspire people in the entertainment industry to take responsibility for that impact and produce more programs that make a positive contribution to society.


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