History of Education: Selected Moments of the 20th Century

A work in progress edited by Daniel Schugurensky
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)

1990

News and advertisements in schools: First broadcast of Channel One

 

This year, amidst some controversy, Channel One appeared in classrooms of secondary schools in the United States. This was an unprecedented development in the history of public schools anywhere in the world. Never before had a private broadcasting company that included advertisements in their programming set afoot in public education.

Channel One is a commercial enterprise that produces and distributes daily TV programs to schools. It states its mission as follows:

    To use news and current events information as a tool to educate and engage young adults in world happenings; make the daily news accessible, relevant and exciting to younger viewers; promote daily awareness of the relationship between national and world events and every teen's individual life; encourage young people to become productive and active adult citizens by proving to them that they are participants in history not just witnesses to it.

Basically, the system works like this: in exchange for programming and equipment, those schools which enrol in the program are required to show Channel One programming to its highly sought after young audience each school day. Channel One broadcasts 12 minutes of programming (including two minutes of ads) to more than 8 million students in over 12,000 schools in the United States. The news content is decided by Channel One staff. Advertisements are sold for approximately $200,000 per 30 seconds, which is a price many marketers are willing to pay given the fact that the teenage students are a captive audience.

Those in favour of the program argue, among other things, that the inclusion of advertisement in the programming is a small price to pay for bringing new technologies into the classroom and exposing students to current events. Those who are critical of the Channel One concept argue that commercialization is inconsistent with education. For instance, one Seattle parent expressed in a meeting discussing Channel One that "schools should be all about teaching students to make their own choices, not coercing them to buy things they don't need. Schools should not be selling my child as a consumer to corporations." Critics also complain about the compulsory nature of the program, and about the fact that schools cannot preview the program before airing them to the students.

As a result of the concerns expressed by teachers and parents, Channel One has been banned in the State of New York. For a detailed description of one school district’s analysis of the pros and cons of Channel One, click here.

The first comprehensive study of Channel One, undertaken by William Hoynes (Vassar College) and Mark Crispin Miller (Hopkins University), was published in 1997. Hoynes and Miller analyzed 36 Channel One shows broadcasted between 1995 and 1996, and found that only 20 percent of the programming covered recent political, economic, social and cultural stories. The remaining 80 percent was dedicated to advertising, sports, weather and natural disasters, features and profiles, and self-promotion of Channel One. The conclusion of the study was that "it is dubious whether such news provides educational or civic benefits to either students or educators.” Hoynes and Miller also reported that Channel One’s coverage of domestic politics includes a very narrow range of perspectives. Government officials and politicians made up 69 percent of the sources, and accounted for 86 percent of the source time. Men accounted for 91 percent of sources and occupied 93 percent of the source time, and 94 percent of the sources on domestic political stories were white, accounting for 97 percent of source time.

Channel One is currently owned by advertising organization Primedia (previously K-III Communications), which bought the company in 1994 for US $250 million.

Sources:

Channel One [online]. Available: http://www.commercialfree.org/channelone.html (February 20, 2001).

Hoynes, William (1997). News for a captive audience: An analysis of Channel One [online]. Available: http://www.fair.org/extra/9705/ch1-hoynes.html (February 20, 2001).

ICCSD (2000). Channel One: A sense of the board statement [online]. Available: http://www.uiowa.edu/~cyberlaw/SchBoard/Other/chanone.html (February 20, 2001).

 

Prepared by Laurie Mook & DS
February 2001


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