Starting to see the Big Picture. Why Channel One News wants the captive elementary school audience.

May 9, 2012

Last year Channel One News announced they were teaming up with the UK whiteboard company Promethean Limited to roll out an elementary school version of their in-school TV show. ¬†Many people may not know that Channel One has always coveted the elementary school market, going back to the early 90’s. This New York Times article is from 1991.

THE MEDIA BUSINESS: ADVERTISING; Channel One May Provide Program for Grade Schools

By Stuart Elliott
Published: November 20, 1991

WHITTLE COMMUNICATIONS is considering the introduction of an elementary school version of Channel One, its controversial advertising-supported daily news program for high schools, media and advertising executives say.

If Whittle Communications, which specializes in creating alternative media properties for advertisers, proceeds with the project, these executives said, it might be called Big Picture Television. The name comes from the Big Picture posters, signs that Whittle has installed in elementary schools for several years featuring advertisements alongside information.

Ed Winter, chairman of the Whittle Educational Network subsidiary of Whittle, which oversees Channel One, said that in the last six months, the company has been approached by “a dozen or so” superintendents and principals of elementary schools about the possibility of a Channel One for them.

But, he added in a telephone interview from his office in Knoxville, Tenn., “we’re not far enough down that path yet” to discuss details.

Mr. Winter indicated that he was “not sure I have a strong opinion yet” on what form a Whittle elementary school project might take. “I’d start from ground zero,” he said.

The executives said that if an elementary school version duplicated Channel One’s sponsored format — 2 minutes of each daily show’s 12 minutes are devoted to commercials — it could generate even more criticism than Channel One, which has been barred from schools in New York and most of California by education officials upset about its commercial nature. And in Texas, the state board of education is seeking a legal opinion on whether it has the power to ban Channel One from schools.

Peggy Charren, the president of Action for Children’s Television in Cambridge, Mass., which has battled Channel One, said she had long worried about Whittle adapting the concept for “kids too young to cross the street,” adding, “It’s bad enough to do at high schools and junior high schools.”

A version of Channel One aimed at younger children “would be a hot potato,” said Arnie Semsky, executive vice president and director of media and programming services at BBDO Worldwide in New York.

But he added that Whittle could proceed with such a project “in a way that would be palatable” to opponents if it sought sponsors rather than advertisers. That way, instead of running commercials, Whittle might just run credits on screen.


Flash forward from 1991 to 2011:

June 27, 2011 – Channel One News/ Promethean press release

June 28, 2011 Р Channel One targets new captive audience.

October 27, 2011 –¬†Promethean partners with pariah.

November 14, 2011 – Controversy comes to Ashland Elementary School (VA)

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