Government Wants To Sneak Financial Info Onto Soaps And Telenovelas

When we posted about “30 Rock” last Friday, a reader SHOUTED IN ALL CAPS that someone—either NBC, or Tina Fey, or maybe The Consumerist, we’re not sure—is a government shill for basically being paid by the gov to write about financial advice. Turns out Mr. Shouty is right, sort of: the U.S. Treasurer, Anna Escobedo Cabral, was on the radio news program “Marketplace” a couple of weeks ago to talk about how she’s been meeting with the creative teams of soap operas and telenovelas to find ways to incorporate financial storylines into their plots.

The idea, Ms. Cabral says, is to “reach people at teachable moments in their lives” by finding multiple ways to get educational messaging out in the public space.

“Too many kids are graduating high school, for example, not knowing what a budget is, how to balance a checkbook, what a credit card is, what an interest rate is, or how compound interest works… If the treasury tries to do this by itself, it will not be successful, but if you do this in partnership with all the other segments of society, you’re likely to be very successful and in the end the public and the entire country is better off.”

We can’t find any evidence that the government is paying networks to do this, or that “30 Rock” was doing the U.S Treasury a favor with its 401(k) joke, but it’s certainly possible. Ms. Cabral says she originally wanted Joey on “Friends” to “get into financial catastrophe and then through that humor, teach while he was entertaining,” so clearly the idea has been floating around for a while.

“Financial education from soap operas?” [Marketplace] (thanks to Granolaheadesq!)

RELATED [U.S. Treasury]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. BuffaloKat says:

    When I was in college a few years ago, I had the chance to work with a professor who’s specialized in communication within soap operas. She worked closely with directors and producers to help deliver messages about healthcare. She believed that the women who watched soaps represented a lower economic class — and they needed to be educated about their options for healthcare.

  2. Craig Huffstetler / xq says:

    I don’t think this is the government’s job. It still comes down to parents, personal reading and just common sense. I think television, movies and other forms of literature (if we can call these mass communication methods such…) will indeed address issues such as finances. They already are. I do not think we need to mandate or put money into making sure they do — because they should be already.

    I know the counter side to this argument may be that VISA and Mastercard get to advertise in movies and on television within the actual show because they pay money to do so…hopefully the movie companies, producers, directors and what have you will be able to advertise and warn at the same time. This is especially true now that we see how much student debt has sky rocketed and credit card usage is booming even in teenagers.

    Overall, situations like the above will not need money to fund their ways into television shows and movies. They will just be there — in the script, in the show. They are a part of everyday real life and will impact the creation and direction of shows. If this government official wants to advice shows about to incorporate financial awareness into their shows, let her…who cares. But on the other hand I hope the government does not tip the ice berg and mandate anything or become forceful. That would be the real issue.

  3. vex says:

    I don’t know how many high school kids are sitting at home in the middle of the day watching soap operas, but I would guess not many.

    Lets hope they aren’t learning anything about social relationships from those same shows. The divorce rate in the US will surely skyrocket.

  4. savvy9999 says:

    Wasn’t there a similar situation a couple of years ago by the ONDCP– paying studios/writers to de-glam the use of drugs & alcohol on TV? I don’t remember the details, and I don’t know if the program is still in existence.

    In any case, any show or script that realistically portrays the real-life side of personal finances seems like a good idea to me. The list of TV shows that I can recall which actually portrayed people as truly middle-class, and not having wondrous Manhattan apartments falling from the sky:

    1) Roseanne
    2) Sanford & Son
    3) What’s Happening
    4) Good Times

    All of which are long off the air now. Coincidence?

  5. Pink Puppet says:

    @Jean Naimard: If only someone would just curb YOU.

  6. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    @Jean Naimard:

    Your comment has been removed. If you can make your point without using an offensive racial slur (3 times, no less), then you can try again. If you can’t, you’ll have to find somewhere else to play.

  7. Pink Puppet says:

    @Consumerist Moderator – ACAMBRAS: It’s just so nice to see a moderator work so darn quickly. I know you get it a lot, but thanks for cleaning things up.

  8. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:


    Thanks for the positive feedback. :-)

    Also, know this: I’m over 24 hours behind on my RSS feeds, so if it hadn’t been for fellow Consumeristas flagging that comment, I wouldn’t have been able to act so quickly.

  9. JeffM says:

    Who knows? But I think we can all agree those are the folks the need the advice the most! :)

  10. says:

    do teens really watch soaps? they should get this stuff on laguna beach. they always show people in designer stores and in restaurants, but they never actually show the money transition.

  11. Antediluvian says:

    @craig.huffstetler: One reason it’s to the benefit of the GOVERNMENT, and by extension, to the benefit of SOCIETY, to have a financially-smart, educated populace, is that it REDUCES DEPENDENCY ON GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS. This is in EVERYONE’S best interest (so to speak).

    The more people who save money for retirement, the fewer people relying on handouts in their “golden years.”

  12. betatron says:

    Plan for one’s future? Live within one’s means? Avoid crrushing revolving debt???

    HOW DARE THEY??!!!!

    get a friggin grip. Oh, wait, thats right, we’re talking TV, which is manded to be a worthless cesspool of bullshit. sorry. carry on.

  13. SpaceCat85 says:

    A simple question, but…why don’t they, y’know, actually mandate teaching this in high school rather than trying to sneak it into TV programs?

    At least a class like that would be more useful than the silly and redundant freshman “orientation” program my district switched to for the classes that followed mine (“Here’s the MLA Format, for the nth time since elementary school”).

  14. Granolaheadesq says:

    SORRY I YELLED. No just kidding, was reading Consumerist as a diversion at work in the middle of an all-caps project, and guess I forgot to speak in an indoor voice. I read your story and it just sounded way to similar to that Marketplace piece. Thanks for the tip of the hat, and back to you, Consumerist.

  15. rouftop says:

    I vividly recall Balki Bartokomous getting into big trouble by purchasing a ton of furniture with his brand new checkbook. It taught me a lot.

  16. CMcGee says:

    Was Cabral around during the 80’s when we saw St. Elmo’s Fire’s Jules succumb to a breakdown when she spend herself into oblivion and asked for so many advances she finally wound up without a paycheck? Obviously the teens and young adults watching that piece of cinematic brillaince are today’s debt-laden grown-ups. If Demi Moore couldn’t scare people straight, in terms of their finances, no one else will, either.

  17. Consumerist Moderator - ACAMBRAS says:

    Maybe we were all too bedazzled by Rob Lowe’s spectacular aerosol pyrotechnics.

  18. S-the-K says:

    Considering we have a TV game show to determine if contestants are smarter than a 5th grader, then there are a lot of people out there who would barely make it though high school.

    Corporations will spend money to get their products displayed or mentioned on TV shows. Why not something BENEFICIAL and PRACTICAL like personal finance?

    Granted, government schools SHOULD be teaching personal finance instead of “Heather has two mommies” and “Daddy’s roommate”. Personal finance should be part of the mathematics and/or social studies curriculum.

  19. Kajj says:

    What the hell? Why go to a gay place there? Fiscal responsibility and social tolerance aren’t at odds with each other. And show me a public school in this country that would even THINK about putting “Heather has Two Mommies” in the elementary school library.