School Boards Urged to Turn Channel One Off

August 6, 1997
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(Birmingham, AL) Obligation, Inc. is a Birmingham-based
child advocacy group involved in many children’s television issues including
educational programming and TV ratings. They are urging school boards to
immediately remove the controversial Channel One TV show from Alabama classrooms.


"School boards that have sold Channel One
unprecedented access to Alabama school children are wasting precious student
time and taxpayer money," said Jim Metrock, Obligation president. "It
wastes a week of school and it costs taxpayers $2,600 per classroom each
school year."


"We urge all school boards to immediately
eliminate Channel One from their school day. Removing this exploitative advertising
device from Alabama schools will give students more time to learn. If we
are going to impose ‘No Pass, No Play’ and higher exit exam standards, it
is ludicrous for a school board to force children to watch a MTV-like infotainment
show for one hour a week," Metrock said.


Channel One is a 12-minute TV show (including
2 minutes of commercials) that many Alabama school children are contractually
required to watch during school time. The school receives the daily TV show
and are loaned all the equipment necessary to receive it (a satellite dish,
two VCRs, and a TV in each classroom). In return, the school system agrees
to show the program to children at least 90% of all school days in at least
80% of all classrooms. Schools never own the equipment.


Channel One Network is owned by K-III Communications
which is majority-owned by Kohlberg Kravis and Roberts.


"Every minute of school time is purchased
by taxpayers. A school board cannot ethically give that time away to a private
company, especially when there is no measurable educational benefit."


Two studies this January by Vassar College and
Johns Hopkins are the most recent independent studies that say Channel One
is not beneficial to students. Dr. William Hoynes of Vassar said Channel
One is not educational and is nothing more than a "slick 12-minute commercial."


Students lose a minimum of 31 hours of potential
instruction time watching Channel One. That is equal to a week’s worth of
instruction. The loss comes when the non-instructional homeroom period (where
Channel One is often shown) is made 12 minutes longer than necessary to accommodate
the TV show.

Metrock said it costs taxpayers $2,600 per classroom to watch Channel One.
That assumes a taxpayer cost of $.06/minute/student and a 23-student classroom,
and 157 days of viewing.


Mrs. Pat Ellis, of Jasper, is head of Obligation’s
Channel One project. She said, "Most parents have no idea that commercials
have become part of their child’s curriculum. Some of the ads are truly disturbing.
For example, children were told to watch the most violent prime time network
series on TV ‘New York Undercover.’ This program has the same rating as the
infamous "NYPD-Blue". Schools should educate and uplift our children,
not encourage them to view vulgarity and violence."


Mrs. Ellis also said she is distressed that schools
are advertising expensive athletic shoes and other products many parents
cannot afford. Ellis said, "Parents in Jasper told the city school board
that Channel One’s agenda was wrong for students and it was promptly removed.
Parents entrust their children to public schools, school boards should not
wait for public outrage to unplug this TV show."


Some of Channel One’s recent problems include:


Vulgar and ultra-violent PG-13 movies and TV
shows are advertised in the classroom. ( "The Quest" and "Unhappily
Ever After")


R-rated movies are promoted on Channel One’s
website. ("Def Jam’s How to be a Player","Nothing to Lose", "ConAir", "Face/Off")


Channel One ran a graphic commercial for "Stephen
King’s ‘The Shining’". A very intense TV mini-series, which a New York
Times reviewer called "sickening.". They also ran a Reebok commercial
that told children to watch Fox’s New York Undercover (the most violent prime
time network series according to the Center for Media and Public Affairs)
that particular night so kids could see the newest Reebok ad.


Age-inappropriate news stories are forced on
children. (Paula Jones v. Clinton, drug surveys- "Half your parents
smoked marijuana.")


Commercials urge children to enter contests that
require the viewing of offensive movies. ( "See- It-And-Win" contest
for the adult comedy "Down Periscope")


Children had to sit and listen to music from
the satanic rock band "Marilyn Manson" which played at least twice
on the in-school TV show.


Explicit content bands have been regularly featured
on the website’s "Playlist". (Bone Thugs, Notorious Big, Marilyn
Manson, 311)


The TV show tells children to go to the Channel
One "Chat Rooms" which can pose serious dangers. Channel One asks
children for inappropriate personal information (phone number, home address),
and the threat of child predators is very real in chat rooms. The warning
to children is inadequate.


The website has a "Personal Ads" section
for teens and pre-teens. Children are encouraged to hook up with other Internet
users. A Channel One monitor said the "Personal Ads" section may
well become "Channel One’s red light district."


"Channel One is condemned by every major
educational organization," Metrock said. "There is no reputable
organization that would support a school board member’s vote to subject children
to Channel One."


The National PTA, the National Association of
State Boards of Education, the National Assn. of Secondary School Principals,
the American Association of School Administrators, are among the organizations
opposed to Channel One.


The Alabama State School Board passed a resolution
in 1991 which states:

Be it further resolved, That the Alabama State Board of Education urges
each local board of education to consider that agreeing to sell or provide
an entrepreneur access via television reception and distribution to a captive
audience in a public school classroom for commercial purposes is exploitation
and a violation of the public trust."


Obligation commends all Alabama schools that
have rejected this exploitation.


In February, Mr. Metrock and Mrs. Ellis were
invited by Dr. Ed Richardson to speak about the Channel One controversy to
the quarterly meeting of school superintendents. Obligation will make a full
Channel One presentation to any group in the state. <End>