July 18, 2001
A broad coalition of companies, organizations and activists,
ranging from Focus on the Family to Ralph Nader, have kicked off a
campaign to stop Primedia's Channel One from exploiting school children
for commercial gain. Channel One is the in-school television program
with a daily captive audience of about eight million children in 12,000
schools, broadcasting 10 minutes of "news," music and filler, plus two
minutes of advertising for a variety of products and services aimed at
The coalition is asking all Channel One's advertisers to stop
advertising on Channel One and asking the top 50 U.S. advertising
agencies not to place ads on Channel One. The Senate and House
appropriations committees are being asked to prohibit government
advertising such as armed services recruitment ads.
With almost everyone today talking about education reform, this
coalition urges that it be a reform priority to stop the practice of
compelling impressionable children "to view commercials during their
limited school time." The coalition's letter to Channel One's
advertisers sets forth a long list of complaints against Channel One:
Channel One misuses compulsory school attendance laws to force
children to watch ads, wasting valuable school time. The programs
consume the equivalent of one instructional week of school time each
school year, including one full day watching ads.
Channel One promotes violent entertainment by encouraging children
to see violent movies such as "Supernova," "The Mummy," and James
Bond's "The World is Not Enough."
Channel One wastes the tax dollars spent on schools. A 1998 study
entitled "The Hidden Costs of Channel One" concluded that Channel One's
cost to taxpayers in lost class time adds up to $1.8 billion per year.
Channel One advertises extremely vulgar films, such as "Head Over
Heels," which contains sexual situations, profanity, violence, and
suggestive language and gags. Another film, "Dude, Where's My Car,"
glorifies two marijuana users who were so stoned they couldn't remember
where they parked their car and contains sexually suggestive scenes and
In February, Channel One advertised "Monkeybone," a crass movie
about the battle between a cartoonist and his genitals, symbolized by a
Channel One teaches a curriculum of materialism. It sells
children on the proposition that buying is good and will solve their
problems, and that consumption and self-gratification are the goals and
ends of life.
Channel One is bad for children's health. American children are
suffering from an epidemic of obesity, which Channel One probably makes
worse by aggressively promoting junk food and soda pop.
The American Academy of Pediatrics internet journal carried a
expose of Channel One by Alabama pediatrician Dr. Carden Johnston. He
criticized the ads for soft drinks and candies because they conflict
with the National School Lunch Program's regulations about foods that
increase the epidemic of adolescent obesity and Type II diabetes.
Dr. Johnston's commentary also pointed out another problem with
Channel One: it propagates contests whereby companies can get access
to a child's name and address. "Students are enticed to go to a
website after school," he wrote, "where companies can acquire telephone
numbers, email addresses, social security numbers, and credit card
numbers if students declare they are at least 13 years old."
The coalition debunks Channel One's claim that it is a
conservative, pro-family company. It's owner, Primedia, has merged
with About.com, which distributes hard-core pornography on the
Some coalition members also take issue with Channel One's
advertising of About.com's "Teen Advice" website. Jim Metrock of
Obligation Inc., a leading opponent of Channel One, described the
"advice" offered to teens last December 26 in preparation for New
"Whether you play it straight this New Year or decide to walk on
the wild side, Teen Advice wants you to be safe," the website stated.
"PC or not, here are some tips to help make the most of your evening --
no matter how you opt to spend it."
Potentially drunk or drugged teens were then told to stick to "one
type" of alcohol and carry "a note with essential emergency medical
"What does this mean, 'walk on the wild side'?" Metrock demanded.
"How many parents want this advice directed at their child?"
The Teen Advice website also addresses sexual issues, and while it
emphasizes the dangers associated with teenage sex -- abstinence is
even mentioned -- the central theme is that whatever kids want to do or
are comfortable with is okay. The site includes "how to" directions
for french kissing, using a condom and having sex.
Other organizations that oppose commercial advertising in the
classroom include the National Council of Teachers of English, the
National PTA, the National Association of State Boards of Education,
and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.