Child advocates celebrate the demise of the in-school marketing scheme.
BIRMINGHAM, July 11, 2018 – In 1989 Channel One burst on the scene offering a Faustian bargain to schools across the country. For the use of “free” TV’s, many school boards offered up a captive audience of students required to watch commercials for products that included junk food, soft drinks, expensive sneakers, movies and CD’s. They also touted their website channelone.com. Along with the commercials was a ten-minute newscast. Channel One’s most recent owner: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt just pulled the plug! The current school year was the final season for Channel One News. Their last broadcast aired in May.
Channel One saw children as nothing more than “eyeballs” for revenue. A former Channel One President Joel Babbitt bragged, “The advertiser gets kids who cannot go to the bathroom, who cannot change the station, who cannot listen to their mother yell in the background, who cannot be playing Nintendo.”
Thanks to Channel One, students lost the equivalent of a full week of school each year. Time that could have been spent reading or improving math skills instead of manipulating the wants and desires of a captive audience of children. Schools showing Channel One commercials were essentially giving their implicit endorsement to all the products advertised; a dream come true for corporate marketers.
Early on, Eagle Forum entered the battle against Channel One and classroom commercialism. Working with Jim Metrock, a child advocate and President of Obligation, Inc., Eagle Forum lobbied the Southern Baptist Convention to pass a resolution opposing Channel One.
Eagle Forum also participated in a United States Senate Education Subcommittee hearing on Channel One arranged by Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL). who stated: We cannot afford to waste a minute, let alone five full class days per year on educationally insignificant infomercial television. …, I believe [children] need a greater dose of reading, writing and arithmetic. Moving away from traditional studies is not preparing our children to compete – in fact, it’s causing them to fall dangerously behind. In that hearing, Phyllis Schlafly, President of Eagle Forum, testified to the egregious waste of taxpayer-funded educational time. She also used her popular weekly radio program to raise awareness of Channel One.
Eagle Forum members met with school boards, school superintendents, PTAs and other organizations to sound the alarm regarding Channel One. Along with Obligation, Inc. Eagle Forum was responsible for numerous articles in local and national publications. The Channel One issue was also part of Eagle Forum Annual Conferences.
Pat Ellis, Eagle Forum of Alabama, VP-Issues, said “This has been a long time coming. So many of the commercials encouraged materialism and even advertised products that could lead to poor nutrition and obesity. Too many of the movies promoted inappropriate behavior not condoned by parents. It should be obvious not to waste educational time subjecting students to marketers that have honed techniques to manipulate them. It is my hope legislation will be passed to ensure students never again lose precious academic time in order to benefit corporate interests.”
Who started the demise of Channel One?
Jim Metrock is an Alabama businessman who invested 22 years of his time and resources to continuously research Channel One productions, report his findings, and activate others through the nonprofit that he founded, Obligation, Inc. He writes about Eagle Pat Ellis: “… the victory over Channel One would NEVER have happened, if Pat, basically alone, had not stood up for schoolchildren against enormous odds in Walker County. After winning the battle there, she enlisted me to help her rid Alabama schools of this wasteful nonsense. Then we took the fight to them nationally.”
Yes; it was the determination of this gracious Alabama mother to protect not only her two boys but countless others from the poisonous and seductive influence of the Channel One propaganda masquerading as news in the schools that began its demise. Pat’s father was in the military so she was taught by his example to stand up for God, family and country. She continues to serve on the Eagle Forum of Alabama Board as our Issues Vice President and to give unselfishly to others. We love you and thank God for you, Pat.
Eunie Smith, President, Eagle Forum of Alabama