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Education Reporter
Study Finds Channel One Costly
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MILWAUKEE, WI - The eight-year-old classroom television venture known as Channel One is costing taxpayers $1.8 billion per year in classroom time, a new study finds. Conducted by the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, the study is entitled "The Hidden Costs of Channel One."

Researchers used data from the National Center for Education Studies to determine the cost of a single public school student's education per minute state by state, and calculated that viewing Channel One for 12 minutes a day (the length of the program) adds up to an average of $229 per student per year. This figure was multiplied by the 7.8 million students who currently watch the program. The 12 minutes of viewing per day totals approximately six school days per year.

This study concluded that, contrary to popular perception, Channel One is not free. Professor Alex Molnar, who co-authored the report, was quoted in the New York Times on April 1 that "Channel One costs time, and time is money."

This is not the first time Channel One has come under fire following the results of an academic study. In 1997, two studies charged that it is primarily an advertising tool rather than an educational tool (see Education Reporter, March 1997). These studies found that news reports made up only 58% of the programming, while advertising, promotional activities, gimmicks and small talk filled the remaining 42%. Of the time devoted to news, only 20% consisted of "hard news" stories covering political, social and cultural events, while 80% of the "news" time was filled with sports, weather, and natural disasters. The author of one of the studies concluded that Channel One's news value was "dubious" and should not be taken seriously. The other study reported that "Channel One's real function is not journalistic, but commercial."

Some parents have expressed concern about the advertising their children are required to watch, and are outraged over the wasted classroom time. Others are more concerned about the content of the news that Channel One broadcasts. In 1991, Colorado State Eagle Forum President Jayne Schindler attended a public preview of a week's worth of Channel One newscasts (See Education Reporter, November 1991). She found that they included United Nations propaganda, reports of worldwide environmental disasters, and repeatedly stressed "global citizenship" and the "global community."

Channel One debuted in 1990 and is now owned by a company called Primedia. Schools sign contracts to air the company's programming, and Channel One provides the equipment. In return, schools are required to show the daily 12-minute broadcasts, two minutes of which are devoted to commercials. Advertisers pay about $200,000 for a 30-second spot. In response to the University of Wisconsin study, at least one education advocacy group is already calling for schools to let their contracts with Channel One expire.

Many parents are delighted that Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) has called for a Senate hearing on the program. Shelby said he is troubled that most states don't give parents an opportunity to decide whether they want their children watching Channel One.

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