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Effectiveness in Disease and Injury Prevention Assessment of Broadcast Media Airings of AIDS-Related Public Service Announcements -- United States, 1987 - 1990

Television and radio public service announcements (PSAs) are an integral part of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) public information campaigns. This report summarizes an assessment of airings of AIDS PSAs in the United States during October 1987-December 1990 that were produced by CDC\'s ``America Responds to AIDS'' (ARTA) (1) campaign and other groups.* The assessment used data obtained from Broadcast Advertisers Reports (BAR) of the Arbitron Company.** Broadcast Advertisers Reports

BAR monitors commercial advertising and selected PSAs on television and radio stations. Since October 1987, CDC has used BAR to monitor the airing of AIDS-related PSAs.

BAR monitors airing of advertisements on three national television networks (ABC, CBS, and NBC), six major cable television networks, and 75 top television markets throughout the United States; these 75 markets are considered to represent approximately 80% of the U.S. households that have televisions. Most stations in a given market are monitored, except for some local independent and educational stations. In addition to television, BAR monitors 17 radio networks.

Network and cable television and network radio stations are monitored continually. Seventeen of the 75 top local television markets (considered to be ``major spot markets'') are monitored daily either from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. (14 markets) or to 3 a.m. (Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City). The remaining 58 (``local spot markets'') are monitored from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m. during 1 randomly selected week each month. These data are then used to project monthly estimates of the number of airings and their dollar value.

For each PSA airing, BAR collects 1) date, day of week, and time of day broadcast; 2) length of the PSA; 3) category of the PSA; 4) name of the show during which the PSA aired; 5) market type (e.g., network or spot); and 6) estimated commercial dollar value of the airing. Airing of AIDS PSAs

From October 1987 to December 1990, local, state, and national broadcasters donated more than 120,000 spots with a value of almost $139 million (Table 1), divided almost equally between ARTA (47%) and all other AIDS-related (53%) PSAs. PSAs are primarily shown during late-night television on the national and cable networks (Table 2). However, AIDS PSAs were aired during daytime hours, particularly in the top local television markets. During television ``prime time'' (8 p.m.- 11 p.m.), other AIDS PSAs received slightly higher network exposure than did ARTA. AIDS PSAs were aired predominantly during news shows; however, both ARTA and all other AIDS PSAs were shown on highly rated entertainment shows. Most (76%) AIDS PSAs on network radio were broadcast during daytime and late-night hours.

The total estimated number of donated spots for ARTA PSAs increased after the launch of each of the five ARTA campaign phases and decreased during the following months (Figure 1). The recorded number of spots for all other AIDS PSAs peaked in October 1987, when almost 3000 PSAs were broadcast (Figure 2). Reported by: National AIDS Information and Education Program, Office of the Deputy Director (HIV), CDC.

Editorial Note

Editorial Note: The findings in this report indicate that AIDS information campaigns have benefited from the donation of a substantial amount of air time by national television and radio and by local broadcasters. These PSA broadcasts have occurred throughout the day and night, providing potential exposure to many different audiences.

Assessment of monthly patterns indicate that airings of PSAs increased after the implementation of each phase of ARTA, probably because of increased marketing at both national and local levels. Airings declined to their lowest level at the end of the 14-month interval between ARTA phases IV and V--an interval twice that between any of the other phases. This finding suggests that, to maintain optimal broadcasting of PSAs, new campaign materials should be released at 6-month intervals or marketing efforts intensified at 5- to 6-month intervals.

Airing of PSAs is voluntary; however, during October-December 1989, 80% of adults polled in a national survey reported having seen an AIDS-related PSA on television, and 45% reported having heard a PSA about AIDS on the radio (2). In addition, the recent report from Baltimore (3) shows that PSAs can be an effective education tool among injectable-drug users. Further studies, including controlled trials of the direct effects of individual ARTA campaign phases, will be used to determine the impact of messages and to identify when new messages are needed. Periodic evaluation of the National AIDS Hotline will assess the association between calls for information and exposure to PSAs.


  1. Woods DR, Davis D, Westover BJ. ``America Responds to AIDS'': its development, process, and outcome. Public Health Rep (in press).

  2. Hardy AM, NCHS. AIDS knowledge and attitudes for October-December 1989: provisional data from the National Health Interview Survey. Hyattsville, Maryland: US Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, CDC, 1990. (Advance data from vital and health statistics; no. 186).

  3. CDC. HIV-infection prevention messages for injecting drug users: sources of information and use of mass media--Baltimore, 1989. MMWR 1991;40:465-9.

*AIDS PSAs produced by a number of national, state, and local organizations.

**Use of trade names is for identification only and does not imply endorsement by the Public Health Service or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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