The Cost of Channel One in One Alabama Middle School

August 19, 1999

Pizitz Middle School is in Vestavia Hills, AL, a suburb of Birmingham. Vestavia Hills is a very well-to-do school system – by Alabama standards. The one middle school and the high school both have had Channel One since mid-1991.

The school board agreed to the superintendent’s recommendation to enter into a contract with Channel One without any apparent financial analysis of the agreement. For almost nine years our middle has been showing children the Channel One program. At no time during that period did any board member or superintendent ask for a review of the cost of Channel One. Indeed, school administrators have often used the word “free” when talking about Channel One, so it is not beyond the imagination to think our school administration believes there is no cost to showing Channel One.

But there is, and just because some folks don’t understand the value of time, doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t calculate the cost of Channel One.

Let’s start with the cost of one minute of school time per student. We will use $ .0945/minute/student for Pizitz Middle School. That figure is based on 1996 data and came from the Alabama Department of Education. Surely the cost has gone up since then, but we will use it nonetheless.

Channel One is 13 minutes long now. They expanded the program without permission some time ago. Let’s minimize the cost by using the originally agreed upon 12 minutes as the length of the program.

$.0945 X 12 = $ 1.13 is the cost per student to watch one Channel One show

To make the calculations easier, let’s round down to $1 per student per show.

The contract that was signed by the Vestavia Hills Board of Education says the schools will show the program 90% of all school days. Pizitz Middle School has never honored the contract since 1996 and maybe beyond. They do not show Channel One on Tuesdays because of a conflictwith another activity. So this middle school can never be over 80% on the school day requirement. In actuality, the school often will show only three or two days of Channel One per week. The principal, David Miles, and the new superintendent Dr. Harrison Cass, have said that Channel One is well aware of what Pizitz is doing and that is fine with them. (That should be of great news to schools across the country who are told they must honor every term of the contract.)

I estimate Pizitz is showing Channel One 60% of all school days. Pizitz students must go to school 180 days, but the minimum for Alabama schools is 175. I’ll use the lower figure.

.60 X 175 days = 105 days a student watches Channel One

105 shows X $1/per student/show = $ 105 / per student per year cost for taxpayers

There are 1,000 students at Pizitz Middle School. The total cost for Channel One for one year is therefore $105,000.

If you just consider the cost of the two minutes of commercials each day at this one middle school, this is what you get:

1000 students X 2 minutes = 2000 minutes of taxpayer-funded school time X $ .095/student/minute = $189 a day – just for the wasted school time watching commercials. That could purchase one TV set, with a VCR (which Channel One TVs don’t have) each da it is shown. This incredible waste of tax money has been going on in this school system since 1991. This is scandalous. If your school has Channel One, you have the same waste going on.

There are fewer and fewer defenders of Channel One, but you might hear one say something like this: “Hey we show it in homeroom. Homeroom is a waste of time anyhow so we don’t lose any instructional time. It doesn’t cost us anything to show Channel One.”

The average cost of 9 1/2 cents per minute for Pizitz Middle School is for EVERY minute. A homeroom minute, a running-down-the-hall minute, a math minute. Expenses, overhead, salaries cover the whole day. There is a price for every minute and although some would have you believe there is no cost to showing a 12 minute program to students, these folks are simply talking gibberish.

Those “homeroom” minutes could easily be converted into core curriculum minutes of learning. Many schools have to maintain this extra 12 minutes of non-instructional time to find a place for this cheesy advertising gimmick called Channel One. Channel One in a homeroom robs children of extra time to read or be taught their academic courses.

No matter what you think about the content of this discredited TV show, the cost of showing it to students is too high for any public school to justify.

August 14, 1999 – Rumor has it that Channel One will attempt to defuse public outrage at its marketing of violent and sexually provocative movies to children by refraining from advertising PG13 movies this coming school year. These marketing executives still don’t understand the problem. Should a public school urge schoolchildren to see any movie? to buy any specific candy bar? watch any particular TV show?

Of course not.


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