Montana School District Rejects Channel One “Free” TVs

January 18, 2003

From the Bozeman (Montana) Daily Chronicle:

Three Forks board nixes Channel One

By NICK GEVOCK, Chronicle Staff Writer

The Three Forks School Board has decided not to contract for broadcasts of a national teenage news service.

The board was considering a contract with Channel One News, a national news service that reports on current events in a daily, 12-minute broadcast geared toward teens.

In exchange for free TVs and satellite hookups, Three Forks would have had to air Channel One news programs at least four out of five school days, giving the company a captive audience.

Two minutes of the show are set aside for advertisements for things that teenagers are likely to purchase, such as pimple medicine, soda and movies.

The tradeoff of forcing kids to watch ads drew sharp criticism from some parents, and the board voted Tuesday not to sign the contract.

“Some of the baggage that came with that wasn’t acceptable to our community,” High School Principal Tom Blakely said.

Instead, the board created a committee that will try to raise $8,000 locally to buy TVs and VCRs so the school can choose its programming, Blakely said.

“Our goal has always been current events and school-wide broadcasting, it was never Channel One,” he said.

Three Forks’ school buildings are already partially wired to install satellite hookups, which should help keep costs down, Blakely said.

The money raised for technology won’t cut into the school budget. Blakely said Three Forks residents have always supported the school and raising the money should be possible.

“If they can step up to the plate, I’m perfectly happy,” he said.

Anne Ore, a parent who opposed Channel One, said she was happy the board carefully considered the issue and looked for options. She was turned off by the idea of students watching 12 minutes of TV in school every day.

“If you’re devoting a certain amount of school time, then there is a cost,” she said. “It was called ‘free equipment,’ but it really wasn’t.”

Over the course of the school year, Channel One would have accounted for several days of class time, she said. And nearly an entire day would have been consumed solely with advertisements.

That’s time that could be used to teach foreign languages, or look at other sources of news such as newspapers, Ore said.

” I don’t think the school should be under the thumb of a corporation,” she said. “The teachers should have the freedom to conduct their classes as they want to.”

(Thanks to Ken McNatt.)