In a distinct and ambitious drive to inform and educate around healthier social norms, break societal stigmas and give voice to some of the most taboo topics for young people, The MTV Staying Alive Foundation, partnering with Viacom18, brings a new campaign to India in January 2020. “MTV Nishedh”, will focus on fostering healthier attitudes and behaviours and removing the stigma surrounding several health-related issues, including sexual reproductive health and wellbeing, contraceptive care, tuberculosis (TB) and nutrition.
At the heart of the campaign is a 13-episode fictional series, reflecting the trials and tribulations faced by many young people in India today, using themes of love, ambition, family and health to deliver a powerful and inspirational story. The series also aims to educate its audience, and to get young people talking and seeking out more information about important and often neglected and overlooked issues.
MTV Nishedh, produced by Mumbai-based production company Victor Tango, will premiere on MTV India starting 25th January, 2020 every Saturday and Sunday at 8 pm and on Colors Rishtey starting February 1, every Saturday and Sunday at 10.30 pm. MTV Nishedh will also be available anytime on VOOT.
Through funded partnerships with the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and The Centre for Social and Behaviour Change, Ashoka University along with The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, this ground-breaking campaign weaves in messaging around sexual reproductive health and wellbeing, contraceptive care and options, consent, preventing teenage pregnancy and reducing stigma around abortion, into its world, characters and stories.
An educational grant from Johnson & Johnson Services, Inc. has enabled the campaign to integrate messaging around the realities of TB in India – which has the world’s highest burden of this airborne disease – so young people can better understand the signs and symptoms of the disease and help reduce the stigma that is too often associated with it. With UNICEF India, MTV Nishedh will also raise awareness around the importance of nutrition for adolescent girls, with a focus on anemia.
The campaign website (mtvnishedh.com) will feature informative digital content. It will be home to exclusive short form video relating to the drama series, blogs and articles about the health and social issues the campaign is tackling, and an interactive clinic finder to help its audience access clinics and services near them.
MTV Nishedh has been adapted from The MTV Staying Alive Foundation’s multi-award-winning campaign ‘MTV Shuga’ that has had proven impact on health and behaviour change in Africa. Based on the same model, MTV Nishedh’s 360 campaign uses storytelling to raise awareness and reduce stigma around key issues. In addition to the TV drama the campaign features a robust digital content strategy, a 15-part radio drama and peer to peer education.
Sudhanshu Vats, Group CEO and MD, Viacom18, said, “I’ve always believed that doing good is good for business. We have, since inception, created content on social causes and built a successful broadcast business around it – from Balika Vadhu to Shakti to Laado – we have covered a gamut of socially sensitive issues through our TV content. Furthermore, through our youth brand MTV, we continue to create multimedia campaigns, over and above our TV shows, that highlight various social themes. We have explored issues as diverse as women’s empowerment to sanitation through our films like Queen and Toilet: Ek Prem Katha. This business philosophy of doing good was underscored last year when BMGF worked with us to bring forth a behaviour change content series called Navrangi Re! on the issue of Fecal Sludge Management. The sheer number of social organizations and like-minded corporate who are partnering us to launch MTV Nishedh bears testimony to its scale.”
Sonia Huria, Head - Corporate Marketing, Communications & Sustainability, Viacom18, said, "Well more than a conscious strategy I think it is an ingrained thought process at Viacom18. Allow me to explain in some more detail.Our mission is to connect every story to its audience and every audience to its story. And over the last 12 years, we have created stories that resonate with our audience across platforms. Interestingly, some of our biggest successes have been stories that speak of societal issues or regressive societal norms – be it Balika Vadhu, Its Not That Simple, Angels of Rock, Toilet: Ek Prem Katha…the list goes on. Projects like Navrangi Re! and MTV Nishedh are natural extensions of this philosophy of using content to amplify social change. What encourages me is how more partners are recognizing the relevance of this approach and reaching out to us to use entertainment to bring forth such stories of social impact."
Georgia Arnold, Executive Director of The MTV Staying Alive Foundation and Executive Producer of MTV Nishedh, said, “MTV Nishedh marks an exciting point in The MTV Staying Alive Foundation’s journey. Bringing the highly successful MTV Shuga model to India facilitates young Indians to take up more space on issues affecting their everyday lives. The power of MTV Nishedh is in its reflection of real life - we engage young people in all stages of its development to ensure the stories are relatable, entertaining, and highly engaging. Crucially, all of our content drives the audience to health services where they can receive valuable help. We believe MTV Nishedh has the potential to be a genuinely relevant cultural asset, as well as a successful public health campaign.”
Known for her association with social causes and strong performances in films addressing issues of significance, award winning film actor Bhumi Pednekar has lent her support to the MTV Nishedh campaign.
Speaking about her association with the campaign, Pednekar said, “I strongly believe that young people in India are going through a tremendous change be it political or social. At a time like this, it is important that they are aware of their sexual rights as well as other issues like TB and nutrition that impacts their health. MTV Nishedh is a great platform that lends voice to these issues and I am happy to partner with the campaign that creates further awareness.”
Hisham Mundol, Executive Director of Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, said, “The power of MTV is that it is a brand that young people love. We are proud and excited to support introducing MTV Nishedh to India because we believe it can inspire and empower an entire generation to take control of their health and wellbeing.”
Sarthak Ranade, Managing Director of Janssen India, Johnson & Johnson Private Limited, said, “It’s time to make more people aware of TB, remove the stigma associated with the disease, and help those in need of treatment access the best possible care. At Johnson & Johnson, we have been working closely with the Government of India, NGOs and other local partners to combat TB and DR-TB at all levels. Building on this commitment, our company is incredibly proud to support the MTV Nishedh campaign to empower youth to advocate for a TB-free India.”
Archna Vyas, Deputy Director of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), said, "India’s youth population is the engine of economic and social progress. When youth have access to tools and information that enable them to make decisions about their health -- which includes understanding of reproductive health issues, adequate nutrition and combating infectious diseases -- we set them up for productive futures. Our investments in MTV Shuga demonstrated shifts in beliefs, attitudes and health seeking behaviours. We are confident that MTV Nishedh will break stereotypes, address myths and misconceptions associated with health, to secure the future wellbeing of our Indian youth."
Purnima Mehrotra, Associate Director - Evidence and Learning, Center for Social and Behavior Change (CSBC), Ashoka University, said, “The Centre for Social and Behaviour Change at Ashoka University has invested in the digital campaign of MTV Nishedh to encourage uptake of modern contraception among young people in India. Digital as a medium, allows the user to decide what they see, and where, as well as encourages a more reflective and thoughtful viewing experience. It creates spaces for viewers to talk candidly, especially about more sensitive issues like sex and contraception. It also provides an opportunity to connect our audience to their peers. We are excited to be a part of MTV Nishedh and hope to leverage the characters and storylines from the TV show to engage and interact more closely with our target audience, amplify the messaging and create an online space for communities of young people to come together. As an academic institution our commitment is to learn from our projects through independent evaluation of our work.”
Dr. Yasmin Haque, UNICEF India Representative, said, “Stories that touch hearts have the power to influence behaviours. UNICEF is happy to support MTV Nishedh through its innovative TV series to focus attention on issues like adolescent anemia. We are confident that the show will go a long way to improve awareness among young people on the importance of their own nutrition.”