Speech Given to All Alabama Superintendents of Education
Prepared remarks by Jim Metrock, President, and Mrs. Pat Ellis, Director of Channel One Project, of Obligation, Inc.,
to the Alabama Superintendents of Education meeting, at the Embassy Suites Ballroom, in Montgomery, on February 5, 1997.
Mr. Metrock: Thank you, Dr. Richardson. Our message is simple: Channel One is wrong for Alabama school children and Channel One is wrong for Alabama taxpayers.
Our objective today is to encourage you to get your school board to pull the plug on this TV show as soon as possible.
Mrs. Pat Ellis of Jasper listened when a teacher told her that someone had to do something about Channel One. She did. Now she is heading up our statewide Channel One project. She will tell you just a few of the harmful aspects of this TV show.
Mrs. Ellis: Ladies and gentlemen, we have invited Hollywood and Madison Avenue into the public school classroom. At the July, 1995 school board meeting in Jasper, a standing room only audience of parents and business people were unanimous in their desire to see Channel One banished from the Jasper City Schools. Thanks to our responsive school board and superintendent Channel One was never shown again.
I’d like to share with you this morning just a few examples of what we have uncovered since Kohlberg Kravis and Roberts took over. And please keep in mind a caution from U.S. News and World Report, “Research shows that students who watch ads in schools tend to believe the schools endorse the products advertised.” And, why wouldn’t they – if it wasn’t okay, the schools wouldn’t advertise it.
Down Periscope was advertised last year. Entertainment Weekly called it “vulgar”. The obscenities and blasphemies were unrelenting. The in-school commercial urged children to see the movie over the weekend because there would be a contest during school the following week.
An ultra-violent kick boxing movie, The Quest, was advertised in the classroom in April. The brutal acts of violence were so numerous they defied accurate recording.
In a promotional video to potential advertisers, Channel One used its ad for Ace Ventura-When Nature Calls to illustrate their power over teenagers. After the commercial was broadcast, 500,000 children called to enter the “See It and Win” contest. This kind of exploitation of children through the public school classroom is wrong.
This spring Channel One presented ads for the TV show Unhappily Ever After. It is one of the most offensive shows on TV with graphic sexual references, endless gutter talk, and total disrespect for parents. Promoting this type of TV trash through the public school classroom is wrong.
A clip from a R-rated gangster movie was shown during Channel One’s Academy Awards broadcast. They chose to show the main character brutally throw a person out a closed window. This was the final straw for the Alachua County School Board in Gainesville, Florida. They overruled their superintendent’s recommendation to renew Channel One and voted unanimously to unplug Channel One last year. This system educates over 10,000 students.
The recently released movie, Romeo and Juliet was advertised to students. The voice-over and bold lettering across the TV screen let youngsters know and I quote “Shakespeare has never been this sexy.” This kind of advertisements to children as young as 11 and 12 through the public school classroom is wrong.
This fall one of Channel One’s top stories was on the gangsta rapper, Tupac Shakur. I doubt many parents and taxpayers would be happy to know taxpayer funded time was wasted on this convicted felon and his drug-drenched brand of music.
Now Channel One is intruding on our children during weekends and after school. The cool young Channel One anchors sign-off reminding students to visit the Channel One website. This website is rampant with problems – but one of their most glaring errors was to promote the satanic rock group, Marilyn Manson, on their Channel One Playlist. The band members in this group take their last names from well-known serial killers.
This past Christmas Eve, Channel One’s “gift” to our children was a chat room. This chat room disregarded all rules the Center for Missing and Exploited Children gives young people regarding Internet safety. This chat room is in fact a “gift” to child predators who roam the Internet seeking innocent young victims. In a recent editorial, Senator Richard Shelby warned us that “Instances of children being abducted by someone he/she met while using the Internet is becoming more and more common.” This is irresponsible – this is wrong.
Parents who are aware of Channel One are disturbed that $150 Reeboks and $400 Web TVs they cannot afford are pitched over and over again on Channel One.
Ladies and gentlemen, many of us are still trying to raise G-rated children in an R-rated world. Please be our allies in this struggle. Stop and ask yourselves – What kind of message are we sending our children when we promote vulgar and violent movies through the public school classroom? What kind of message are we sending our children when we advertise products many of their parents cannot afford? This generation of youngsters receives enough mixed messages. Let’s not add to their confusion by selling them to Channel One or any other profit-driven corporation. It’s unethical, it’s wrong. Thank you.
Mr. Metrock: We’re just two parents. We are up against a giant – Henry Kravis of Kohlberg Kravis and Roberts, the ultimate owners of Channel One. KKR, of course, was made notorious by the book “Barbarians at the Gate”.
Well, now the Barbarians are in the classroom and they are making a killing. Forbes magazine reported three weeks ago that Channel One made $30 million profit last year on $70 million sales. That’s a 43% profit margin. That’s obscene. That was made possible because well-intended school boards gave unprecedented access to a captive audience of the most impressionable citizens of our state – our school children.
Although I am no longer a board member, as a founding board member of the Business Council of Alabama, I feel comfortable in predicting Alabama business leaders are going to be stunned when they discover the extent of this institutionalized waste of time.
Channel One’s offer to include 2 minutes of commercial
messages into the curriculum, said Neil Postman in his book “Redefining
the Value of School”, was “the first time to my knowledge, that
an advertiser has employed the power of the state to force anyone to watch
Obligation contends that it is an abuse of power, however well intended.
Some say the ads are the same as on regular TV. That’s untrue. There’s a Reebok ad that tells the students that their principal is working for Reebok. There’s another on that says get your 25%-off pass
for Arizona Jeans from your principal. All ads on Channel One are unique because they are taxpayer-subsidized.
Last month, the latest Channel One studies were released from Vassar College and Johns Hopkins. They confirm what the numerous previous studies say: Channel One is wrong for Alabama school children.
As a presently inactive member of the Alabama State Bar, I urge you to convey this information (in the handouts) to your Board Attorney, first. He or she cannot be blind sided by the lawsuits in neighboring states and the public scrutiny that Channel One is about to undergo in Alabama.
Does a student, or his or her parents, have a legal cause of action when a school board substitutes the Channel One TV show for a week’s worth of school instruction each year?
Imagine your school board president being asked these questions:
Are there any major research studies that back up your contention that Channel One is effective in educating children? (Well, no. Those studies show it is ineffective as used.)
Did the school board or any one in the community approve Channel One’s curriculum? (No. There is no way to do that. It’s made up every night in Hollywood.)
Did the board order periodic testing of students to determine the effectiveness of Channel One’s curriculum? (No.)
Did the school board require students to watch this show? (Yes.)
Did the school board artificially make homeroom 12 minutes longer than necessary to accommodate the interest of advertiser? (Yes.)
Could that 12 minutes have been added to instructional time? (I suppose so.)
Can the school board tell us of any major educational organization that endorses Channel One for being beneficial for students? (There aren’t any.)
How much did the net worth of the school increase by the receipt of TVs, VCRs, and satellite dish? (Zero. Nothing was given to the school. We were only granted the use of the equipment.)
You mean, the school doesn’t have title to the equipment? (Yes, that’s correct.)
Who negotiated with this vendor? (No one did. Channel One didn’t want any negotiations. It was take-it-or-leave-it.)
Ladies and gentlemen, there is no acceptable trade-off here.
The former California Superintendent of Public Instruction, Bill Honig said at a Senate subcommittee hearing about Channel One in 1991:
Parents entrust their children to our public schools; “Channel One” is a commercial transaction that violates this trust. We have no right – legally or ethically – to sell access to our students by converting the educational purpose of schools to a commercial one, even if schools receive a modest benefit in return.
I’m the product of Alabama public schools. My children have flourished in Alabama public schools. The public school boards that insist on maintaining a relationship with this advertising company are jeopardizing public support for public education and that is wrong and they shouldn’t get away with it.
In conclusion, one week of possible instruction is being denied some Alabama school children and that is wrong … and Alabama parents don’t know that yet.
A Channel One commercial for an offensive movie, the promotion of satanic rock band in the classroom, a Reebok ad for $150 athletic shoes are all subsidized by Alabama taxpayers … and they don’t know that yet.
Channel One has been invisible which is why there are few complaints. It is invisible no more.
We have evidence to back up everything we have said.
It is our opinion that school boards need to turn this TV show off. The public will do it if necessary. We stand ready to provide information or make a presentation to your board so we can help you help your school board out of this liability called Channel One.
As an old Turkish proverb says: No matter how far down the wrong road you find yourself … turn back. <End >