Did you know that a youth marketing company advertises to up to 5.5 million middle and high school students in 8,000 American schools through an educational news program?
Channel One contracts with schools to provide the use of audio-visual equipment. In exchange, the schools agree to show Channel One News, a 12-minute, daily TV show with 10 minutes of news programming and two minutes of commercials. Commercials include everything from video games to movies and beauty products.
According to Jim Metrock, founder of the grassroots organization Obligation.org, the time spent watching Channel One programming translates to at least 32 hours of lost instructional time a year, and seven weeks of lost instructional time for a middle and high school career.
This is particularly upsetting to Metrock, whose organization aims to remove marketers like Channel One from the schools. “Kids should be using school time to learn, to study,” he says. “Schools should be a marketplace of ideas, not a marketplace for products.”
Further, Metrock says, “Schools should be a place that promotes critical thinking skills. An advertisement is the opposite of that. These ads depend on emotional response. Commercials make you feel bad about yourself in order to make you want to buy something that can make you better.”
For those schools that broadcast Channel One News, Metrock would like to see classroom time allocated to discuss or deconstruct the program. “There just isn't time for teachers to help students deconstruct the powerful commercials they are forced to watch.”
Channel One promotes itself as the “leading television news network for teens nationwide. Our mission is to inform, educate and inspire by making news relevant and engaging for young people and sparking discussion around the important issues impacting youth today.” Reading their press releases, parents might have no idea that Channel One is a leading marketing company to teens and preteens (or tweens).
The company is owned by Alloy Media + Marketing, which is not shy about its purpose: “Capturing the attention of CONSUMERS. Creating conversations that fuel POP CULTURE MOVEMENTS.” Further, “Alloy Digital controls the top ranked and largest media and advertising network of youth targeted websites...and, Alloy Education offers the most comprehensive youth database.”
Parents Can Help
Channel One does not disclose the name of schools in which it broadcasts. So many parents don’t know about the program. "It’s almost like its invisible to parents and the school board,” says Metrock.
First, ask your sixth through 12th grade student if Channel One is in his school. If the school broadcasts the program, Metrock does not recommend going directly to the principal. “You may be the only one complaining about the program, and that’s not enough to motivate the principal to reexamine the contract.”
Instead, he advises that concerned parents garner the support of other parents and act together. Once a group is organized, going to the principal and the school board with objections will be more effective.
Schoolchildren need their parents to be advocates for commercial-free classrooms. They do that by learning about Channel One and then by reminding school officials that schools are to serve students, not advertisers.