Channel One Rains Down More Violent Entertainment On Children

February 10, 2002
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This is from an article Obligation wrote for a Midwest newspaper.

“A movie of such rank stupidity and appalling taste that it would seem impermeable to analysis, much less critique.” OREGONIAN

“Loud, violent, mindless” DALLAS MORNING NEWS

These are a few of the more charitable reviews for “Rollerball” an ultra-violent and profanity-filled movie that premiered on February 8. Screenit.com rates movies according to their content. Their rating for “Rollerball”: Profanity – “Heavy”; Sex/Nudity – “Heavy”; Alcohol/Drugs – “Heavy”; Guns/Weapons – “Extreme”; Violence – “Extreme”.

Originally scheduled for release last year as a R-rated movie, cuts were made to pass for PG13.

This movie was advertised to young people as young as thirteen … in their public school classroom. Channel One News advertised Rollerball at least twice during the week of February 4. Welcome to the strange world of Channel One.

Middle and high schools are offered the use of a TV network in exchange for a promise that students be shown a 12-13 minute TV show called Channel One News at least 90% of all school days.

Don’t let the name of the show fool you. Channel One has little to do with news. A 1997 study by Professor William Hoynes at Vassar College showed that only 20% of the show deals with “hard news.” Much of the show is a self-promotion, human interest stories, sports and weather-related stories.

On February 1, Channel One spent over four minutes on a story about ice hockey players. On February 8, NBC Sports took over much of the show and shamelessly pushed their Olympic coverage. NBC’s Bob Costas co-hosted Channel One and shouted out at the end that students didn’t have to study this weekend if they watched NBC, CNBC, and MSNBC. These are the three networks with Olympic programming.

Is this is a wise use of school time? Most secondary schools in our country think not. An overwhelming majority of these school districts have refused to sell Channel One access to their students. Channel One is outlawed from all public school classrooms in their home state of New York.

In 1999, the nation’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, passed a resolution that stated: “…be it further resolved that we urge parents to investigate whether their children’s schools are using Channel One and to seek effective ways to protect their children from the advertising assault of the network; and …that we call on school administrators and community leaders to work to remove Channel One from their school districts.”

With the rise in obesity among children, it makes no sense to allow Channel One to recklessly advertise junk food. Students at schools with Channel One are currently watching over and over again the sexy Britney Spears Pepsi commercials that ran during the Super Bowl. Another major advertiser is Hostess Cupcakes and Twinkies. Sheer madness.

The National Council of Teachers of English has a long-standing resolution that says: “Resolved; that the NCTE opposes intrusions of commercial television advertising, such as Channel one, in the classroom.”

Each Thursday, Channel One plays portions of songs that students request. The latest rock and rap blare away in the classroom. Very often recording companies sign deals with Channel One for a group to guest host the show. In violation of Channel One’s own published news standards, guest hosts will plug their latest CD, tour, TV show or movie. This is in addition to the two minutes on “regular” advertising.

Channel One recently played music from Cold. This group is known for its vulgarity. Their Cds always have an explicit sticker. In 1996, Channel One had the audacity to promote shock rocker Marilyn Manson by playing his music during the show’s introduction.

The National PTA’s position on Channel One is this: (they urged PTAs to) “seek and support state and federal legislation and/or regulations that would protect students from exploitation by prohibiting a business from bringing into school any program that would require students to view advertising or to study specific instructional programs as a condition of the school receiving a donation of money or donation or loan of equipment.”

The waste of school time is incredible. 12 minutes a day = 1 hour a week = 31 hours a year = one instructional week of school a year = 7 lost weeks if watched from 6th to 12th which is the usual setup. Who will give that time back to the children? Who is responsible for this? and who is trying to correct this situation?

For that matter, if a student mimics an act of violence that he saw in a movie that his school repeatedly urged him to see, is the school board liable? Why is the school running very polished commercials for movies at all? Last year, high school students were urged to see the filthy MonkeyBone (euphemism for the male sex organ) and the drug movie “Dude, Where’s My Car? (two potheads have a wild time with a transsexual stripper). If your school does not have Channel One, you should take the time to thank the administration.

Last June a letter was sent to advertisers urging them to remove their ads from Channel One. The signers included Phyllis Schlafly for the Eagle Forum, Ralph Nader, Donald Wildmon for the American Family Association, Jaydee Hanson for the United Methodist Church’s General Board of Church and Society, Tom Minnery for Focus on the Family and over sixty others. Conservatives and liberals finally agree on at least one thing – Channel One has no place in a school district that is serious about education.

The contract is a financial disaster for schools. A classroom of students must give up one hour of school time each week to pay the rent on a 19” TV set that can be purchased for $150. The students must keep paying this rent and the school will never, ever get title to the TV. Even an Enron accountant would laugh their head off at this contract.

If your schools removed Channel One, this is what you would lose. The classroom TV set, the $60 TV bracket, two VCRs per school (one the school cannot use), a 13” monitor ($125), a headend unit ($500-$1000), and the fixed KU-band satellite dish. The wiring to all classrooms remains. Since the dish can only pick up Channel One’s signals there is no loss. Is that worth gaining back an hour a week?

The few defenders of Channel One will say it is no different than a soft drink logo on a scoreboard. The difference, of course, is Channel One is inside the classroom.

Some will say there is no problem since it is shown during homeroom or other non-instructional time. Taxpayers have paid for every second of school time, whether it be in an English class or in homeroom. Homeroom could be shortened and that time added to academic classes. If a school devoted just half the time gained to sustained reading instead of passive TV watching, think of what that would do for standardized test scores.

If a teacher suggests that Channel One should not be ended, ask these questions. Do you preview the program before school (it is automatically taped around 4 am for that purpose) so you can integrate the daily content with your course work? Do you preview it for offensive content? Or do you just let it be shown and hope for the best? Do you watch the show every day and make notes so you can help put the content, especially the commercials, into some context for the students? When a Clearasil commercial makes fun of young people with acne, do you “deconstruct” the ad to show how the company is pressuring them into purchasing the product?

Teachers generally don’t want to lose the equipment and are ambivalent about the TV show. For some, it is a well-needed break as Channel One babysits the class. I have found most teachers to be quietly furious at their school boards for putting this distraction in their classes.

It is time stop the insanity of advertising ultra-violent movies in our children’s classrooms. It makes no sense to use taxpayer school time to urge our children to eat more Twinkies. It’s time to remove the advertising gimmick called Channel One News from our schools.

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