Channel One Hires Lobbyist Group To Save Alabama Cash Flow

September 25, 1998

Paul Folkemer, Channel One’s newly-hired education VP, was nowhere to be seen at the Alabama Board of Education work session. The man that was so embarrassed that Shelby County, AL school board members knew more about his company than he did, had other pressing engagements than talking to the Alabama board of education. Channel One was one of the main topics of discussion. Channel One was represented, however, by Martin Christie, a well-known and very successful lobbyist-for-hire. Christie’s lobbying company has been hired to maintain the very profitable situation Channel One has in Alabama. (77% of all school systems in our state are providing a captive audience for Channel One’s national advertisers.)

Mr. Christie read his prepared remarks that spoke glowingly of Channel One’s content and how important the program is in educating children. Afterward, Jim Metrock asked Mr. Christie in front of the board, “How many Channel One shows have you seen, Martin?” Mr. Christie’s answer startled at least one board member that was observed – “I plan on seeing some,” the Channel One representative said. Ouch.

Jim Metrock later said, “Channel One’s statement to the State Board of Education was filled with inaccuracies. For example, Mr. Christie said a ‘recent University of Michigan study’ showed substantial educational benefit to watching Channel One. That was misleading. Mr. Christie was referring to a three year study completed in 1993 that said for any chance of significant benefit, Channel One must be followed up by a teacher – which is rarely done. He gave the state board the impression that Channel One may not be out of Shelby County schools yet. Channel One’s contract is over in Shelby County. The county will own their own TVs. What Mr. Christie was referring to was the willingness of Shelby County to review Channel One and CNN Newsroom content to see if they are educational. If they are they may be used by teachers at their discretion. We know of no school anywhere in the nation that allows Channel One into their schools when the schools own their TV sets, so parents that are revolted by Channel One in Shelby County have nothing to fear.”

“Also, Mr. Christie said Mr. Metrock’s own school system is very pleased with Channel One. This is an incredibly misleading statement. We have two secondary schools in my school district. Both are under contract to Channel One. The high school does not show the program at all. The middle school has not honored the contract since 1996. The principal of the middle school, Mr. David Miles, who has steadfastly promoted the Channel One program, only shows the program about 50% of the time. He never shows it on Tuesdays and he says that Channel One has no problem with this arrangement. It is hilarious that Channel One’s chief defender in Alabama, Mr. Miles, openly breaches the Channel One contract. So my school system has substantially unplugged Channel One long ago. And it was unplugged by the principals, not Obligation.”

Mr. Christie will represent Channel One as well as anyone can. He obviously did little homework on this company before he accepted their money. He said in his remarks before the state board that Primedia had just recently taken over Channel One, as if to say the mistakes of the past are not their fault. What he didn’t know was Primedia did not buy Channel One last year. It was merely a name change from K-III Communications. K-III and Primedia are the same company. K-III purchased Channel One five years ago from Whittle Communications. Representing Channel One, in the end, will probably not advance the standing of this fine lobbying group.



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