Guest Host Plugs Questionable Show

November 7, 2004

From Jim Metrock:

On Friday, November 5, schoolchildren forced to watch Channel One News saw their second “special” news anchor for the week. Jeremy Sumpter co-hosted the entire Channel One broadcast for middle and high school students. Sumpter is a TV actor for a struggling CBS show called Clubhouse. (On Monday, UPN paid to have an actress from their TV show Veronica Mars host Channel One News.)

CBS worked a deal with Channel One’s management to get this young actor on the show so he could plug this struggling show.

To me, and I think the vast majority of adults that care about education, it is almost criminal for a school to be using class time to advertise anything, much less television shows. I had never heard of this show and I decide to watch the episode on November 6, the day after millions of children saw Channel One News shameless advertise the program during the “news” portion of the show.

I was almost immediately offended by what I saw on Clubhouse.

Although the main story line deals with a baseball team, on this episode the show, at least at the first, focused on two teenaged girls that were “partying” the night before. One was throwing up after drinking too much. She was the “strait-laced” one of the two. The other one obviously (from the conversation) could drink and not get sick. Both were nice looking and from nice families and therefore it normalized alcohol use among regular teens.

One of the mothers calls the other and oh they are in some trouble but not much.

The script sends several bad messages about drinking to teens. The mother of the girl who got sick says something to the effect that drinking A LOT isn’t worth it. (Maybe drinking a moderately is OK for teens.) The whole scene sends the message that popular teens drink and they drink heavy. There is one comment by the girl who didn’t get sick that their group uses designated drivers. Again the message is pretty much ALL teens drink and drink to impairment, but it’s OK if you have a designated driver.

Anyone who knows anything about Channel One News, knows their sordid history of advertising movies and TV shows that normalize and glorify drug and alcohol use by young people. (The Waterboy, Loser, Eight Crazy Nights, The New Guy, Starsky & Hutch, Head Over Heels, One Tree Hill are some examples.)

I remembering sitting in Paul Folkermer’s office with Pat Ellis of Obligation and Folkermer’s assistant. I think it was 1999. Dr. Folkemer was the middle school principal who in 1998 became the VP of Education for Channel One News. He also had the responsibility of approving all ads. Sitting at a small table in Channel One’s NYC headquarters, I asked Dr. Folkermer if he or anyone at Channel One News ever previewed the movies and television shows he allowed to be advertised on Channel One News.

I remember very vividly his reaction – he laughed.

He didn’t laugh a lot. He didn’t roll on the floor, but he laughed. “No,” he said. He reviewed the actual ads – the images that went on the classroom TV screen, but not the movie or TV show the kids were being told to go see. That, of course, would mean too much work for Folkermer and too much expense for Channel One. And what would happen if they saw pro-drug and alcohol scenes in the movie? They would have to turn away the advertising revenue.

To Channel One News it is better to say you made a mistake and keep the ad revenue than to be responsible and sensitive to their captive audience.

I asked Dr. Folkermer if that wasn’t irresponsible. I don’t remember his answer to that. Dr. Folkermer lasted for three years and now he’s an assistant principal in a top level New York high school – that has never had Channel One News. (Channel One has left their position of “VP of Education” vacant for the last four years.)

The reason I bring up Folkermer is that he was a nice guy in a lousy company and even he didn’t care enough to check out movies and TV shows that had sexual, violent or drug and alcohol content that would be damaging to kids. He laughed because the idea that Channel One News would pay an employee to sit through a movie to see if it was “OK” for kids was ludicrous.

That recklessness continues at Channel One News. Sure, Channel One pays MADD money to be a corporate sponsor and they run some MADD public service announcements, but the good people at MADD don’t know that Channel One News routinely advertises entertainment products that contradict MADD’s messages about alcohol.

Earlier this year, teachers were shocked by Channel One’s drug joke on the classroom TV screen. Channel One News allow Snoop Dogg the notorious drug-using rap star to make a marijuana joke on the in-school TV show. That one reckless act probably caused even more teachers and principals to quietly turn off Channel One News for good.

I urge all parents and other taxpayers to begin immediately to mobilize your community to remove Channel One from your school. The vast majority of secondary schools in the U.S. have already kicked Channel One out or have never had this controversial in-school advertising gimmick.


Thanks to Ken McNatt.

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