Local Group Signs Letter Asking For Congressional Hearings On Controversial Channel One Program

November 23, 1998

November 23, 1998 (Birmingham,
AL) Obligation, Inc., a local media watchdog group has joined
several nationally known organizations and individuals in signing
a letter asking for Congressional hearings on the in-school TV
marketing program called Channel One.

Jim Metrock, Obligation’s president
said, "When you have Ralph Nader and Eagle Forum’s Phyllis
Schlafly on the same side of an issue, then the public should,
at least, listen. When it comes to fleecing taxpayers and robbing
schoolchildren of valuable learning time, Channel One is in a
class by itself."

In 1991, a U. S. Senate committee
held hearings on Channel One. At that time Channel One had little
history and the committee chairman said the issue should be revisited.
"The company has changed hands since that first hearing,
and, over the last couple of years, Channel One appears to have
developed an aggressive, and often reckless, attitude toward
marketing to children," said Metrock. In April, U. S. Senator
Richard Shelby (R-AL) blasted Channel One as a waste of time
and money and was the first Senator to call for renewed Senate
hearings on Channel One.

Metrock said, "Although
Channel One has been turned off at several Alabama school systems,
Jefferson County still has their 20,000+ secondary students under
contract to this marketing company. Schools that require Channel
One viewing implicitly endorse every product promoted on it.
Superintendent Dr. Bruce Wright is wrong to think schools should
be telling students what brand jeans they should wear, what type
junk food to eat, and what specific movies and TV shows to watch.
That is none of the school’s business. Just because Dr. Wright
has no problem with commercials being forced on children in their
classroom doesn’t mean parents should put up with this insanity."

Mrs. Pat Ellis, of Jasper, AL,
is Obligation’s Education Director. She said, "Last month,
Channel One aired several commercials for the adult-content "Dawson’s
Creek" TV program. If parents knew their school was showing
any commercial, especially a commercial for a sex-saturated,
‘TV-14 D,L,S’-rated series like "Dawson’s Creek’, to their
12-year-old child, they would be storming the Superintendent’s
office. The problem is that Channel One is virtually invisible
to parents. That is why Congressional hearings would shine much
needed sunlight on Channel One’s agenda in our schools."

Other Sources______________

Dr. Bruce Wright, Jefferson County Superintendent 930-3800 (He
has been an outspoken (TV, radio, print) defender and promoter
of Ch. 1.) [Note: His school system is openly and flagrantly
violating the Channel One contract and Channel One refuses to
enforce the contract.]

Dr. Harrison Cass, Vestavia Hills Superintendent 402-5117 (He
has given his personal "OK" to Channel One and still
requires it to be shown in Vestavia’s middle school.)

Dr. Ed Richardson 334-242-9702 (Although he rejected Channel
One when he was Auburn City Superintendent, as State Superintendent,
he has taken no action against Channel One. Unlike his two predecessors
(Teague and Ingram) he has yet to make any statement to the public
critical of Channel One.)

Mr. David Byers State Board 933-0853

Mr. Kevin McAliley, President of Channel One Network 212-508-6800
(Channel One is not allowed in any public school classroom in
their home state of New York.)

Mr. Evan Major, Shelby County Superintendent 669-5955 (He removed
Channel One in September.)

November 23, 1998

The Honorable John McCain


Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation

U. S. Senate

508 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Washington, DC 20510


Dear Chairman McCain:

We are writing to request that
the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
hold public informational hearings about the effects of Channel
One on children, schools and taxpayers.

Channel One is a marketing company
that delivers advertising to children in schools. It is owned
by Primedia Inc., which is a property of Kohlberg, Kravis &
Roberts (KKR).

Each school day, Channel One
broadcasts two minutes of commercials and ten minutes of "news"
programming to more than eight million students in 12,000 schools
across the country.

We are concerned about the adverse
effects of Channel One on children for four main reasons.

Channel One forces children to
watch ads. Joel Babbit, then-president of Channel One, explained
in 1994 why advertisers like it: "The biggest selling point
to advertisers [is] . . . we are forcing kids to watch two minutes
of commercials." Channel One turns schoolchildren into captive
ad watchers. Schools should not impose advertising on children,
nor should corporations be allowed to use schools as a vehicle
for their commercial messages without informed parental consent.

Channel One wastes valuable time in schools. A 1997 study found
that the content of Channel One’s "news" programming
was shallow. In schools that show Channel One, students spend
the equivalent of one full week each school year watching Channel
One, including nearly one class day watching ads. Schools are
for learning, not for watching ads or drivel.

Channel One wastes tax dollars spent on schools. One recent study
concluded that Channel One’s cost to taxpayers in lost class
time is $1.8 billion per year. Taxpayers should not be subsidizing
the delivery of advertising to children in schools.

Channel One — not parents or school boards — decides its ads
and program content. Channel One takes control over children^Òs
experiences away from parents. We want parents to choose who
may affect their children’s lives, not Channel One.

We hope that the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation
will conduct hearings and a thorough investigation of how Channel
One affects children, schools and taxpayers.


American Family Association

Association of Black Psychologists

Christian Family Network

Commercial Alert

Eagle Forum

Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR)

Family First, Inc.

Family Research Council

New Mexico Media Literacy Project

Obligation, Inc.

Traditional Values Coalition

TV-Free America

Brita Butler-Wall, Visiting Assistant Professor, School of Education,
Seattle University

William Hoynes, Associate Professor of Sociology, Vassar College

Mark Crispin Miller, Professor of Media Studies, New York University

Alex Molnar, Professor of Education, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

Ralph Nader

cc: Senator Richard Shelby