November 25th, 2002

Metro Schools Cancel Channel One

By Natalia Mielczarek
The Tennessean

Metro Schools Cancel Channel One
by Natalia Mielczarek
The Tennessean, November 25, 2002Metro schools are getting rid of Channel One monitors and replacing them with new 27-inch televisions after the administration pulled the plug on Channel One service this school year.

Channel One officials said they respect Metro’s decision to end a decade-long partnership but are disappointed.

Until this school year, Metro students watched 12-minute programs every day that featured 10 minutes of news and two minutes of commercials. With that came optional two-hour specials that covered a variety of topics, from AIDS to world hunger.

In the early 1990s, after Channel One launched its free programming, a number of parents, teachers and educational organizations nationwide protested against exposing children to commercials in a school setting.

Many schools decided against teaming up with Channel One because of the ads.  Some parents sued their school systems for forcing children to be exposed to commercials.

“There are people who philosophically agree with commercials in schools,” said Lance Lott, chief technology officer with Metro schools. “We’re landing on the other side of this argument.”

Channel One monitors were provided to Metro high and some middle schools in the early 1990s. In return, the schools committed to airing the programs every morning.

Now, with no agreement, the monitors are being taken back by Channel One and replaced by Metro to provide teachers with equipment to continue showing instructional videos and school announcements. The project will cost $1 million, Lott said.

It’s rare that schools don’t renew their commitment to air the programs, Channel One officials said. About 40% of secondary public and private schools nationwide show the program, they said.

“We don’t believe that news in America should be coming from the national government,” said Jeff Ballabon, vice president of public policy with Primedia, the company that owns Channel One. “It should be coming from an independent source, and that’s why we have commercials.”

Ballabon said that only 2% to 3% of Channel One programs is advertising. “And a substantial amount of the 2-3% is not advertising of products. For example, we run anti-drug messages. We respect the decision of Nashville school system, but we also respect the fact that the renewal
rate nationwide is 99%.”

Hillwood High School teacher Catherine Sanders parted with Channel One two years ago. She said the programming became “slick, and the stories became too in-depth for freshmen to understand because they didn’t have the educational foundation.”

“For eight years I used it every day,” she said. “The most wonderful thing about Channel One was that the news was coming to students every day and they stayed current on national and international events.”

And what about the ads?

“Most of the time the kids discussed what they saw on the news during commercials,” Sanders said.

Two eighth-graders at Wright Middle school, Erica Mackel and Deata Slaughter, said they’re not as informed about world affairs as they used to be in seventh grade.

“It was completely different than regular news,” Deata said. “They give stories about teenagers and what we have to go through, and they also talked about what’s going on around the world. They can relate to us.”

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