From the archives: Texas paper calls for Channel One’s removal from all Texas schools (2002)

July 25, 2012
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Costs of Channel One

By David Bloom
The Baytown Sun

Published September 15, 2002

Channel One trade ad in Advertising Age: “We have the UNDIVIDED ATTENTION of millions of teenagers for 12 minutes a day. 8.1 million teenagers in classrooms nationwide … And since they’re not channel surfing, talking on the phone or getting snacks from the kitchen, they’re tuning into the world and to you. To reach the largest teen audience around, call …”

We strongly support a Texas Board of Education resolution that encourages school districts to pull the plug on the Channel One satellite television network, which provides news and entertainment programming to classrooms.

Some board members and other critics object to the programming’s advertising, which includes commercials for snack foods, soft drinks and the occasional movie, such as ‘‘Dude, Where’s My Car,’’ which glorifies teen-age drug use. The nonbinding resolution says Channel One uses “sophisticated psychological manipulations” and attempts to “circumvent parents” with “subvert critical thinking.” On Friday, the state education board put off a vote on the resolution until November.

About 8 million students and 12,000 schools across the United States use the Channel One network. In Texas, about 1.1 million children every school day watch Channel One.

Locally, Robert E. Lee and Ross S. Sterling high schools, Baytown Junior, Horace Mann Junior and the Alternative Learning Program all use the Channel One network. The high school and the middle school in Anahuac also show the network.

The deal that Channel One strikes with school districts looks good on paper. Channel One provides schools with wiring, satellite dishes, videocassette recorders and television sets (but they don’t own them) in classrooms. In return, the schools agree to air a 12-minute broadcast every day that features 10 minutes of teen-tailored “news” and two minutes of advertising that Channel One sells advertisers for a couple hundred thousand dollars a spot.

The most obvious argument against Channel One is lost instruction time. Twelve minutes of viewing time each day may not sound like much, but an hour a week and three dozen hours a year is a high price to pay for a few new television sets. More troubling than the practical pitfalls — and similar corporate forays into public education, from cola deals to corporate sponsorships — are the philosophical problems.

Channel One force feeds students nearly six hours of advertisements each school year. The station’s commercials — for everything from cosmetics to colas — take aim squarely at teenagers, selling them on the promise that popularity and happiness lie only one purchase away. This school-sanctioned commercialization of classrooms wastes time and erodes the integrity of the public education system. Some critics have successfully purged their schools of Channel One. New York state, for instance, has banned the broadcasts from public schools.

We urge the Goose Creek and Anahuac school districts to take a long hard look at Channel One and ask themselves: Are there better uses for students’ time than subsidizing such commercialism in classrooms? It’s time for educators, legislators and parents to recognize that the short-term benefits of a few television sets and videocassette recorders cannot justify the long-term costs of Channel One.

School districts ought to find better ways to get technology than selling out children to Channel One.

Today’s editorial was written by David Bloom, managing editor of The Baytown Sun, on behalf of the newspaper’s editorial board.

© 2002 Baytown Sun. All rights reserved.