Why Channel One “News” Will Collapse

January 1, 2003

As I am watching my Auburn Tigers play Penn State, I am also typing this article on my Mac PowerBook laptop. When I am finished writing, I will press a key and it will be sent to Obligation’s web site for viewing across the country.

I installed an inexpensive, wireless connection to the Internet in my home recently which means I can update Obligation’s web site while out on my deck with no wires. It amazes me.

Technology is making it easier for simple, ordinary folk, like me, to not only challenge big, powerful media companies like Primedia’s Channel One but to beat them. Channel One has been condemned by educators since it was dreamed up by an advertising executive in the late 80’s, but the educators couldn’t turn back this company. That task has fallen to individual parents and teachers and students who are standing up and reclaiming their classrooms.

Citizens are discovering the great equalizing power of the Internet in fighting companies like Channel One. For a few bucks a month, one can have a web site that is as easy to get to as Channel One’s site. The Internet allows all sides of an issue to be discussed and it flushes out those who would tell lies or mislead.

New powerful software further levels the playing field. An example is iMovie that allows anyone to make fairly decent looking video productions at a fraction of the cost the Big Boys pay.

In the past Channel One executives could go around the country and say anything they wanted to. They could say the program never shows questionable commercials. They could say that because there was no way to check them. Life was easy for them. If they were accused of doing something offensive on air, Channel One Fat Cats would deny it – end of story.

Those days are gone. Technology, in the hands of citizens, is making Channel One accountable. Accountability is something that Channel One has run away from since the early 90’s.

One need only go to our Video Page to see examples of commercials that Channel One would rather everyone forget. All our video clips came straight from the high-school version of Channel One News. Accountability is taking its toll on the Channel One Network. There will be no tears when it finally disappears.

The past year was another miserable year for the Broadway Bunglers. (Two years ago, Channel One, reeling from the loss of advertisers and the accumulation of national opposition to its programming and commercial content, was forced to move from its fancy Madison Avenue address to some spare Broadway office space at Channel One’s sister company, About.com, which had fallen on hard times too.)

Channel One has spent millions on lobbying Congress and state legislators over the past few years. This has eroded their profitability. Their money has bought many friends on Capitol Hill and in state governing bodies, but how long can their money hold out? Just this year, Channel One had to hire one of the priciest law firms in Texas to fight back a grassroots effort to pass a resolution opposing Channel One in the Texas State Board of Education.

A number of other states are poised to take action against Channel One this year and in 2004. Channel One may not have the money to fight battles in more than a few states at a time.

The dream of being a vibrant brand among teens and preteens is now gone. In the mid-90s Channel One publicly stated they wanted to expand their brand to malls and regular TV. They believed that young people would wear clothing with the Channel One logo. Channel One movies? The Channel One executives dreamed it could happen, but now that dream has exploded.

They are now fighting to just keep their TV show on the air in a minority of America’s classrooms. There is ample evidence that educators and students are tiring of their product. Many schools outright violate the contract terms that state how many days a year Channel One News must be shown. Channel One is almost helpless to do anything about this mass violation of their contract.

Last year’s big bombshell was the set of letters from a pro-Channel One middle school principal in Alabama to Channel One’s president, Jim Ritts, and Ritts’ reply to the principal. The principal tells Ritts that he shows Channel One when the principal gets around to it and if teachers want to show it to kids that’s alright but there is no record of what classrooms are watching and how many days it is being shown to students. Ritts says that’s OK by him and the company. These letters attest to the fact that the end is near for the Broadway Bunglers and their ad-filled, MTV-styled, TV show. These letters will be printed out in schools across the nation. Apparently, no school district need comply with the Channel One contract. Channel One is doomed by their own words.

Channel One had big plans to get into interactive TV but those plans
are on hold. Schools are upset with the antiquated TV equipment that
Channel One keeps promising to replace. (Channel One has furnished
new 27″ TV sets to some of their “special” schools, but many schools are stuck with 19″ sets
that are too small for classroom use. School officials don’t like that
and so more and more schools are telling Channel One to come pick up
their junk.)

The Wall Street Journal reported last year that Channel One is up for sale or if it can’t be sold then they are looking for a partner with some deep pockets. As we start 2003, there is no company that wants to buy this stink bomb. Why would anyone spend precious money to obtain a company that is a lightning rod for controversy?

Channel One News had its peak around 1995-96. It has been fading ever since. Now it is dependent on federal government money, via its military ads and public service announcements. If that money is ever taken away, in whole or in part, Channel One is dead. It is disquieting to know that students are watching a news program that is so heavily funded by our federal government. Conservatives and liberals alike should be upset.

In 2002, Channel One began to put advertising in the “news” portion of the show. Cingular Wireless and Gatorade not only ran ads on Channel One but they also were given promotion time with the “Cingular Question of the Day” and “Gatorade Play of the Week”.
Channel One news reporters became walking advertisements for Columbia
Sportswear in violation of Channel One’s own news standards.

Also in violation of their news standards, Channel One allowed guest-host
after guest-host to plug CDs, movies, and TV shows. It is safe to say
that the Channel One News TV show is blurring the lines between editorial
content and advertising. This alone could kill their company. It is
plain stupid to merge advertising with the “news” portion
of the show. But again, the Broadway Bunglers haven’t made too many
smart moves lately.

The promise of only two minutes of commercials per show was broken long ago. Where are the Channel One attorneys? Is there anyone in the building that understands the ramifications of a material breach of contract?

Channel One’s web site is nothing more than a marketing trap for children. Go there and see what percentage of the content has anything to do with news. Channel One gets to plug this site at least three times a day on their TV show. There is a day of reckoning coming and it will not be pretty for the Fat Cats at Channel One.

There is no good news on the horizon for Channel One. They occassionally will sign up a school that has done absolutely no research on the company or performed a financial analysis of the contract, but these schools are few and far between.

With increased demand for student academic achievement, there is little room to tolerate classroom commercials for the latest James Bond movie. (Yes, Channel One advertised the sexually-charged Bond to schoolchildren.)

With increased attention being paid to the childhood obesity crisis, Channel One can’t keep taking money from junk food companies. This will constitute a major loss of revenue. Almost all the news for Channel One is bad. 2003 will be a year of potential major defeats and humiliations for the company.

I doubt if this is the year Channel One totally collapses, but it will be a year of constant sorrow for the Boys of Broadway. The ship is taking on water. Deck chairs are being rearranged. Celine Dion is about to sing “My Heart Will Go On”. Students and parents will cheer when this ghost ship drops below the surface.

War Eagle! Auburn beat Penn State.