Article Comment 

Voice of the people: Jim Metrock

 

Jim Metrock

 

Channel One 

 

Disney is the world's largest media company. They made over $4 billion in profits last year. So why did you, Mr. and Mrs. Mississippi Taxpayer, subsidize the marketing and promotion of Disney movies and TV shows in classrooms this past school year? 

 

In 286 Mississippi middle and high schools, students, while sitting at their desks, watched movie trailers for the latest upcoming releases from Disney, Warner Brothers, Dreamworks, and other Hollywood movie studios. 

 

This madness has been happening for years because schools have signed a contract with a New York youth marketing firm called Channel One. (Interestingly, the firm's home state bans Channel One from all its public schools.) 

 

The deal: Channel One loans schools TV equipment if they promise to show the firm's commercial-saturated, 12-minute, daily TV show called Channel One News at least 90 percent of school days. That's an hour a week of TV watching. That equals 32 hours a year. An instructional week of school is 30 hours. That could mean a loss of seven weeks of school if watched from the sixth grade to the 12th which is common. 

 

Although Channel One News does contain some news headlines and teen feature stories, its main purpose is to get advertising to a captive audience of students. 

 

No educational organization endorses the use of Channel One. The overwhelming majority of U.S. secondary schools don't have it. 

 

Many schools in Mississippi have had a contract with Channel One since the early 1990's and it has been long forgotten by school boards. 

 

Because of the negative publicity Channel One has received, few schools have signed up with the firm in recent years. 

 

An exception: The Starkville School District signed up with Channel One in May 2010. The Dispatch quoted Starkville High principal Keith Fennell as saying, "'It seems too good to be true, and I kept looking for the catch, but there is none,' Fennell said of the agreement with Channel One News." 

 

Mr. Fennell and the Starkville board evidently saw no "catch" in handing over an hour of school time each week. Starkville has ceded local control of its high school to a New York company who solely decides what we be shown to students and what will be advertised to this captive audience. 

 

On May 23 this year, students watched an entire show devoted to advertising four Disney/ABC TV shows. A "Pop Quiz Challenge" featured four student teams named after The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Pretty Little Liars, Jane by Design, and the summer-premiering Bunheads. Each team was captained by a star from the appropriate show. Constantly on screen were banners with the names of the shows. Taxpayers footed the bill as Disney/ABC strutted their wares on the classroom TV screen. 

 

For over a decade Channel One's advertised Snickers, Hostess Twinkies, Pepsi and Doritios. Today those are replaced with ads for video games and game systems, health and beauty products, cell phones and wireless services and rock bands and their latest CDs. And of course movies, movies, movies. 

 

English teachers have a long-standing resolution about this marketing gimmick: "Resolved, that the National Council of Teachers of English oppose intrusions of commercial television advertising, such as Channel One, in the classroom..." It's not just educators voicing their disapproval, the American Family Association, the National PTA, the Southern Baptist Convention, Focus on the Family, and Eagle Forum have all opposed Channel One. 

 

If your local middle or high school doesn't have Channel One, thank them for respecting the children in their charge. If they do, ask them to end it - now. 

 

Jim Metrock 

 

Birmingham, Ala. 

 

Metrock is president of Obligation, Inc., a non-profit children's advocacy organization.

 

 

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