June 2, 1999
In the interest of the public's right to know, Senator Jim
Jeffords' Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions conducted
an oversight hearing last week on the controversies surrounding
"Channel One." That's the 12-minute-a-day news and advertising program
beamed into the classrooms of 40% of all 11 to 18 year olds.
Channel One is able to offer its advertisers what every advertiser
dreams of: a guaranteed captive audience. Children attend school
because of compulsory attendance laws, and children are forced to watch
Channel One because their school board signed a contract agreeing to
No wonder Channel One can charge primetime rates for its one-
minute spots peddling junk foods, soft drinks, videogames, expensive
sneakers, and vulgar movies, magazines, and TV sitcoms. Channel One
gives advertisers a daily teen audience comparable to the Super Bowl.
Most people believe that teens watch too much television. So why
are the schools compelling them to watch an extra hour a week (12
minutes x 5 days), which adds up to six days of instruction a year?
Many parents restrict and monitor the television their children
are allowed to watch because they consider TV a danger to their morals
and values and a waste of time. Channel One tells its advertisers how
this program enables them to circumvent parents.
A Channel One marketing flier promises: "Channel One delivers the
hardest to reach teen viewers. Channel One even penetrates the
lightest viewers among teens." Of course, that's because
schoolchildren are forced to watch the Channel One ads.
Prayer and Bible reading have been banned from the schools because
they interfere with the right of atheist children not to have to sit in
a classroom where prayers are recited. What about the rights of
children whose parents don't want them listening to satanic shock
rocker Marilyn Manson (whose song was played as intro music to a
Channel One program)?
Or what about parents who don't want their children to see clips
from Stephen King's horror film "The Shining"? Or don't want them to
be pressured to see the sex-saturated TV-14 show "Dawson's Creek," or
the gruesome killings in the movie "The Mummy"?
The most objectionable commercials are the many hard-sell ads for
movies and television shows that contain vulgarities, obscenities,
blasphemies, sexual innuendoes, or violence. The ads induce students
to see the movie over the weekend so they can answer a question the
following week and win fabulous prizes.
Channel One even advertises PG-13 movies to pre-teens in middle
school. Channel One has never released the list of the movies and
television shows it has advertised, or the songs it has forced children
to listen to.
Channel One plugs its own website, which once showcased a review
of an R-rated movie. Channel One's website had an Advice Guru who gave
the "safe-sex" message and advised a teenager, not that she should
abstain from sex until marriage, but only until she is "emotionally
ready and in a committed relationship."
One of the most sickening spots aired on Channel One showed a
baby's face in the cross hairs of a gun, which flashes away to the
sounds of a gunshot.
Channel One's so-called "news" is not selected on worthwhile
educational criteria. One so-called "news" segment was a report of an
opinion survey that purported to show that parents are now more
tolerant of the "drug culture" and that 46% of parents expect their own
children to try illegal drugs.
Should classroom time be allocated to that sort of "news"?
Another so-called "news" segment was devoted to the shooting of a
gangsta rapper noted for his drug-and-sex so-called music.
Since so many conservative, pro-family organizations have come out
against the content as well as the commercialism of Channel One, the
corporation has hired some conservative lobbyists to plead the case
that it is really just free enterprise in action and that anybody who
opposes it must be anti-business. Of course, that's false.
Channel One is based on a government agency (a school district)
making an exclusive contract to sell a portion of the school day to a
private corporation that has total control over that portion, and then
forcing children to sit and listen to the corporation's salestalk.
This would be like the school making an exclusive deal with the
National Education Association to provide all the teachers, and giving
the NEA the power to determine what the teachers teach. It would be
like the school district making an exclusive deal with one textbook
publisher to provide all the textbooks, giving the publisher total
power to advertise anything they want in the textbooks, and forcing all
the children and teachers to use only that company's textbooks.
We pay taxes so schools can educate children, and there is a
widespread belief that it is urgent to improve academic performance.
It does not advance us toward this goal to remove six days a year from
teaching that we are paying for, and turn it over to Channel One, which
is everything we don't like about Hollywood and network television