Who is Left at Channel One?

October 19, 1999

We said 1999 would be a disastrous year for Channel One and it has been much worse than even we forecasted. According to an Educational Marketer article, Channel One’s president, Kevin McAliley, “abruptly resigned” several weeks ago. In early summer, PRIMEDIA’s Chairman, William Reilly, offered his resignation which was no resignation at all. He was given the boot by KKR, the owners of 85% of PRIMEDIA’s pathetic stock. (This stock’s value as of today is almost what it was in 1994 when its initial public offering was made.)

Also in early summer, Martin Grant, Channel One’s VP of sales quit the company. Others have disappeared too. Who remains? Dr. Paul Folkemer, the VP of Education (the only VP of education they have ever had), remains for the time being. If history is any guide, he will be gone in a few years at most. No one stays at Channel One for long. They make some good money and then slip into the night.

There is a reason people don’t stay at Channel One. This company is doing a very bad thing. You can get a fat paycheck from the company, but if you have “walking-around-sense” you know what you are doing at Channel One is wrong. You are making a killing off the precious minutes and hours of children’s school time. You are paid by advertisers to look after their interests. Channel One employees know the company exists because children are required to be shown their program.

Also, the new rising star at Channel One is the VP of Public Affairs, Jeff Ballabon. He is one tough cookie and you will see Channel One more and more shaped by his brand of “in-your-face” aggressiveness. Earlier this year, Mr. Ballabon unsuccessfully attempted to derail Senate hearings on Channel One.

The one group of employees who stick around awhile are the anchors. They are force-feed to children who develop a liking for the familiar faces. Unfortunately, many teachers tell students to stop reading and close their books and watch Channel One. Many are required to watch and listen to Tracy Smith or Alex Sanz, for instance, whether they are saying anything of substance or not – whether what they are saying fits into the curriculum or not. If these anchors tell a joke, millions of children are required to hear it. Nothing funny about that. The Channel One anchors are made popular, not because they are good at what they do, but because school board members back in 1990 signed a contract making the TV show required viewing by schoolchildren. These anchors and the producers never earned their audience. Their “success” is a lie.

This company can survive, but not like it is constituted now. Obligation has asked Tom Rogers, the new PRIMEDIA CEO to meet with those who are opposed to Channel One’s presence in classrooms. We feel that he is probably not getting the unbiased information he needs to determine Channel One’s future. If he is looking after the interests of PRIMEDIA shareholders, he will fly-in Channel One critics for a heart-to-heart discussion.

What is almost certain is that more heads will roll at Channel One and PRIMEDIA. How will this affect your child and your school? It won’t. Channel One will continue to exploit its young audience as it peddles despair to children who are vulnerable to the peer pressure Channel One promotes in its ads. Until Channel One decides it will stop exploiting children, there will be a steady stream of people in and out of this company.

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