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Education Reporter

Group Launches New Campaign to Turn Off Channel One
Jim Metrock
Jim Metrock
A broad coalition of companies, organizations and activists kicked off a new campaign last month to stop Primedia's Channel One from exploiting school children for commercial gain. Channel One is the in-school television program with a daily captive audience of about eight million school children in 12,000 schools, broadcasting 10 minutes of "news," music and filler, plus two minutes of advertising for a variety of child-directed products and services.

Members of the coalition include Ralph Nader, Phyllis Schlafly, the United Methodist Church, Focus on the Family, the American Family Association, authors John Taylor Gatto and Jane M. Healy, actor Matt Damon, and Peggy O'Mara, editor and publisher of Mothering magazine, among many others.

The coalition is asking all Channel One's advertisers to stop advertising on Channel One and requests that the top 50 U. S. advertising agencies not place ads on Channel One. Members of the U. S. Senate and House appropriations committees have been asked to prohibit the federal government from buying advertising time on Channel One (such as ads for the armed services).

The coalition sent a letter to Channel One's advertisers detailing its most compelling reasons not to advertise on Channel One, including:

  • Channel One misuses compulsory school attendance laws to force children to watch ads, wasting valuable school time. The programs consume the equivalent of one instructional week of school time each school year, including one full day watching ads.

  • Channel One promotes violent entertainment by promoting violent movies such as Supernova, The Mummy, and James Bond's The World is Not Enough.

  • Channel One wastes the tax dollars spent on schools. A 1998 study titled "The Hidden Costs of Channel One," concluded that Channel One's cost to taxpayers in lost class time is $1.8 billion per year.

  • Channel One promotes the wrong values to children, advertising extremely vulgar films including Head Over Heels, which contains sexual situations, profanity, violence, and suggestive language and sight gags. Another film, Dude, Where's My Car, glorifies two marijuana users who were so stoned they couldn't remember where they parked their car. This film contained sexually suggestive scenes and language. In February, Channel One advertised Monkeybone, a crass movie about the battle between a cartoonist and his genitals, symbolized by a monkey.

  • Channel One promotes the commercial culture in general and teaches a curriculum of materialism - that buying is good and will solve your problems, and that consumption and self-gratification are the goals and ends of life. u Channel One is bad for children's health. American children are suffering from an epidemic of obesity, which Channel One likely makes worse by aggressively promoting junk food and soda pop.

Pediatrician Opposes Channel One 
Noted Alabama pediatrician Dr. Carden Johnston wrote an expos‚ on Channel One for the American Academy of Pediatrics' internet journal in April (4-4-01). Johnston listed his many objections to Channel One, including dietary concerns that are shared by many physicians. "The National School Lunch Program has rigorous detailed regulations about foods allowed to be served to children," Johnston wrote. "In conflict with these rules and even with the impending epidemic of adolescent obesity and Type II diabetes, we are allowing many schools to contractually obligate children to watch ads for soft drinks and candies."

Johnston's commentary pointed out another danger associated with Channel One - the willingness of school children to divulge personal information for a "reward." "Contests are propagated [through Channel One] whereby companies can have access to a child's name and address," Johnston stated. "Students are enticed to go to a website after school where companies can acquire telephone numbers, email addresses, social security numbers, and credit card numbers if students declare they are at least 13 years old."

Controversial Teen Website  
The coalition's letter noted that "Primedia's Channel One professes to be a conservative, pro-family company. That claim is especially laughable since Primedia has merged with About.com, which distributes hard-core pornography on the internet."

Some coalition members take issue with Channel One's advertising of About.com's "Teen Advice" website. Jim Metrock of Obligation Inc., a leading opponent of Channel One, described the "advice" offered to teens last December 26 in preparation for New Year's eve. "Whether you play it straight this New Year or decide to walk on the wild side, Teen Advice wants you to be safe," the website stated. "PC or not, here are some tips to help make the most of your evening - no matter how you opt to spend it." Potentially drunk and/or drugged-out teens were then told to carry "a note with essential emergency medical information" and stick to "one type" of alcohol, among other "tips."

"What does this mean, 'walk on the wild side'?" Metrock demanded. "What is this saying to children? How many parents want this advice directed at their child?"

The Teen Advice website also addresses sexual issues, and while it emphasizes the dangers associated with teenage sex - abstinence is even mentioned - the central theme is that whatever kids want to do or are comfortable with is okay. The site includes "how to" directions for french kissing, using a condom and having sex. Organizational Opposition

Many organizations oppose Channel One or its use of the schools for commercial advertising for a variety of reasons. The National Council of Teachers of English, the National PTA, the National Association of State Boards of Education, the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development and other educational organizations oppose the "intrusion" of commercials into the classroom. In 1999, the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, passed a resolution urging parents to "seek effective ways to protect their children" from Channel One's "advertising assault."

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