Channel One Update From Jim Metrock

September 10, 1998
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The past few weeks we have
gotten behind in updating our web page. Events have been happening
very fast and I will try to fill in the gaps.

 

Basically, our Channel One project
is succeeding beyond our expectations. Channel One is “on
the ropes” in Alabama. They might rally and reestablish
themselves as a “new and contrite” youth news show,
but I doubt it. Sunshine is pouring over Channel One here in
Alabama and Channel One doesn’t tolerate sunlight well.

 

Clarke County, Walker County,
Shelby County, and now Jefferson County have stopped showing
Channel One. Some have done this on a temporary basis, some permanently.
Those are only the systems we know about. We believe many more
have seriously restricted or ended the broadcast of the program.
The momentum is growing.

 

There appears to be only one
person in the state that will publicly defend the program and
that is a middle school principal in a suburb of Birmingham.
(He defends it even though he has breached the contract for years
by only showing the program approximately 60% of school days.)
This lack of credible support in our state will probably hasten
the demise of Channel One in Alabama.

 

The incredible Shelby County
Board of Education meeting on September 1 has affected Channel
One nationwide. Because of that meeting Channel One has temporarily
ended their potentially dangerous chat rooms and message boards.
They have also removed all advertising. (That hurts them.) They
have also removed their “Entertainment” section. Also
they ended their “Life” section that gave children
advice on sex and dating and had a report that told kids how
to cheat on book reports. This national marketing company changed
its web site from one school board meeting.

 

Channel One, which has had a
policy of never sending representatives to local boards to defend
its program, sent two to Columbiana, AL to present their side
of Channel One. Paul Folkemer, the newly-hired VP of Education,
and a Channel One lobbyist came from New York City. Mr. Folkemer
is a nice guy. He is a former middle school principal that has
been a big Channel One fan for years he says. You would like
this fellow to be your child’s principal. But now he is pushing
a bad product and he got an earful at the Shelby County meeting.

 

I had never talked to any Shelby
County board members before this meeting. These folks asked hard
questions of Mr. Folkemer. Board member, Steve Martin, asked
“Do you spend more time reviewing the ads or the news?”
Answer: “The ads. That takes the time.” (Wrong answer
to give to a school board member.) Another board member said
he has seen a lot of Channel One news reports and called them
“sophomoric”. Then Trey Ireland reestablished, by questioning,
that Mr. Folkemer was in charge of reviewing all the ads on the
TV show and the web site. Mr. Folkemer said he was proud of rejecting
ads that didn’t meet his standards for students. He wanted to
have the board feel comfortable that a former educator was watching
over things. Mr. Ireland gave him plenty of space to discount
his authority in that review process, but the Channel One executive
didn’t see what was coming.

 

Mr. Ireland hands out a 50-page
bound report that documents many sexually-explicit sites that
can be reached by clicking on Channel One advertiser banners
on their web site. Mr. Ireland asked Mr. Folkemer if he has ever
heard of “Spree.com”. “No, sir,” he said.
I was shocked. I knew that “spree.com” was a big-time
Channel One advertiser that had been on the site for a long time.
How could the man in charge of reviewing ads directed at our
kids not know that company? Ireland continued – “What about
‘TalkCity.com”? “I don’t know that company.” There
were others: GoTo.com, The Globe, Mr. Showbiz.

 

Mr. Ireland listed a brief description
of content kids could reach from these Channel One advertisers.

 

Spree.com – 98 Playboy movies,
63 nude books

 

Go To.com – “Hey Girls –
Win a free trip to New York to see Howard Stern”

 

The Globe.com – chat groups for
“gays, lesbians, and bisexuals”

 

Talk City.com – encourages kids
to “Upload a Photo”, Homosexual bulletin boards, Encourages
kids to send pictures to professed homosexuals

 

Mr. Showbiz – movie reviews for
R-rated movies

 

(Obligation had documented previous
links to adult videos and hard-core pornographic pictures on
seemingly innocent Channel One web advertisements.)

 

Mr. Folkemer then told the board
that these sites may have been on the Channel One web site before
he came on board. Mr. Ireland said, “What about last Tuesday?”
Even I felt uncomfortable for the Channel One executive. Mr.
Folkemer then said he really hadn’t been actively involved in
the web site until recently. The damage was done.

The Channel One representative standing before the Shelby County
School Board did not know his product. The board knew more then
he did. Mr. Folkemer was there to defend a TV show and even before
the web site debacle, he chose not to show any of the program.
He left a recent program on a tape for the board to review if
they liked but the only Channel One that was shown was by me
when I made my presentation first.

 

[It is interesting to note that the Channel One reps flew down from a state (New York) that does not allow Channel One anywhere near a public school classroom. Channel One is outlawed from public classrooms. They came to Alabama to convince us that we need to give up a week’s worth of our children’s school time to their marketing company. – That doesn’t go over well.]

I seriously doubt if any Channel One executive, other than folks from their Atlanta regional office, will ever come back to Alabama. Our second largest school system, Jefferson County, has tried to get an executive from New York to come down to meet with their review committee, but they apparently are not coming. I don’t blame them.

I would like to say that my presentation and Mrs. Pat Ellis’s was so over-powering that it moved the Shelby County board to take action on Channel One. Although, I think we did well, it was this board of lay people, dedicated to improving the educational opportunities for their students, that was so well prepared that they got right to the heart of the matter. (They vote on keeping Channel One on September 17.)

Since that meeting, I have received confirmation of an extraordinary letter from Shelby Count principals and assistant principals that says they desire to end the Channel One contract. They want new equipment to replace the Channel One equipment, which is understandable. This letter from principals will have a big impact across our state.

I was on statewide TV last night, Alabama Public Television’s “For The Record” talking about Channel One. The program could find no pro-Channel One spokesperson to be on opposite me. The producer, the day before the show aired, got a superintendent for a local school system to be on. He made it clear that he was not a proponent of Channel One. He was uncomfortable about being on TV discussing Channel One. The only educator to speak in favor of Channel One was Mr. David Miles of Pizitz Middle School, Vestavia Hills, AL. His remarks were taped. He is the aforementioned sole educator who appears to be willing to publicly defend and, therefore, promote Channel One to the Alabama public. He has appeared in newspapers and on TV spouting the Channel One mantra. He consistently refers to the TV equipment as “Channel One technology”.

Much more needs to be done before Channel One is removed from Alabama schools, but great gains have been made in the past month. We should have two big news events in the next three weeks that will greatly aid the students of our state.

 

Jim Metrock