Aamir Khan’s new TV show, Satyamev Jayate debuted this morning. The show adopts a talk-show like format (think Oprah), but focuses solely on social change issues. The opening hour-long episode was dedicated to building awareness on of female foetecide in India, whereby female foetuses are selectively aborted after pre-natal sex determination, thus avoiding the birth of girls.Aamir Khan’s approach to using TV as a social-change tool is strategic and timely. TV access in India is almost universal. It is estimated that 90% of the India’s population has access to TVs, which reaches approximately 260 million households in the country. You cannot beat that kind of distribution. Its a pity that most of the mainstream TV programming till date has been limited to emotional soaps operas, entertaining game shows, and silly reality TV. The programs that aim to address social-change and development issues are typically in the fringe.
Therein lies the sheer brilliance of what Aamir Khan has managed to accomplish – combining his phenomenal star power with the power and reach of TV. Take a closer look how Satyamev Jayate is carefully executed, and you will start seeing the DNA of a social entrepreneur. The show airs both on Star Plus and on Doordarshan, which is very rare on Indian TV, but maximizes reach, especially to rural households. There is a clear ‘call to action’ at the end of the show and everyone is directed to the show’s website where you can donate to non-profits or sign a petition. Finally, Aamir takes his role as a the chief evangelist very seriously – the show is backed by well-researched data and emotional stories – but the final pitch comes from Aamir.
The fact that the Satyamev Jayate website crashed after the show ended is, ironically enough, a sign that show was extremely well received. The site is back up now. However, the webpage for Snehalaya, one of the recommended NGOs to which viewers can make donations to, is still down – probably not being able to handle the massive spike in traffic.
With Satyamev Jayate Aamir Khan has managed to do what every social entrepreneur dreams of. He has taken a powerful social change idea to scale, which could have a direct impact in the lives of millions of people.