Q&a: What happened in 2006 that almost put Channel One out of business?

July 3, 2012


2006 wasn’t a good year for Channel One News.  Few years have been good since 1997.







From Jim Metrock:


Q:  It’s been said that Channel One News “fell off a cliff” in 2006. What happened?


a:  Channel One had always relied on their lobbyists to make problems go away, but in 2006 Channel One’s former lobbyists were going away themselves – to federal prison. Tony Rudy, Neil Volz, and Channel One’s main lobbyist Jack Abramoff  2  3 could no longer buy influence for Channel One.

Losing their lobbying muscle was one thing, but losing their advertisers was even worse.  In May, 2006 soft drink companies agreed to pull their sugary drinks out of school cafeterias and vending machines. That meant they would no longer be advertising them on Channel One News. This was a body blow to Channel One. Channel One News after all was built on sugar.

Channel One executives green-lighted endless junk food commercials for their teen and preteen audiences. M&Ms, Snickers, Twix, Pringles, Hostess Cupcakes and Twinkies, Pepsi, Mug Root Beer, and Mountain Dew all ran multi-year ad campaigns that filled the Channel One coffers. Then it was gone. National pressure on food and soft drink companies stopped the flow of money to Channel One.

Also the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) had finally given up on Channel One. Although Channel One News was a way to get their anti-drug public service announcements to students, ONDCP was irritated with Channel One’s penchant for advertising movies that contained drug content that helped normalize and glamorized teen drug and alcohol use. I met with the ONDCP’s media campaign and showed them the Channel One commercials for movies like Dude, Where’s My Car? which was a “stoner” movie.  Channel One News wanted to play both sides of the youth drug problem: Take ONDCP money and air anti-drug ads and also take Hollywood movie studio money to advertise movies with drug and alcohol content. Losing ONDCP taxpayer money was devastating for Channel One.

Then in September 2006 the bottom fell out. Commercial Alert, Center for a New American Dream, and Obligation combined forces and secured over a hundred signatures from organizations and child advocates urging advertisers on Channel One News and BusRadio (went out of business in 2009) to remove their ads from both companies. The coalition letter was very successful and received national press. That was the last straw for Channel One. Within three months Channel One’s parent company announced that Channel One was a “discontinued operation” and they were trying to find a buyer for the youth marketing company.

No buyer was found. Channel One was about to be closed when Alloy Media and Marketing made a humiliating offer to Primedia. Primedia took it. There would be no cash payment for Channel One. (There was an agreement to later spend $10 million on upgrading some equipment.) Bottom line: All Alloy would do is take over the assets and some of the liabilities of Channel One.

How far was the fall for Channel One News? Consider that Primedia (then known as KIII Communications) bought Channel One from Whittle Communications in 1994 for roughly $250 million. Add to that all the $ millions Primedia poured into the company. Then in 2007 Primedia received nothing for Channel One. 



Below: The Coalition Letter that knocked Channel One to the ground.


News Release

For Immediate Release:                                                            For More Information Contact:
Thursday, September 14, 2006                                                Gary Ruskin (503) 235-8012
Sarah Roberts (202) 255-8332

Children’s Advocates Ask Companies Not to Advertise on BusRadio and Channel One

Children’s advocates sent letters today to the 100 leading national advertisers and the top 50 advertising agencies, requesting that they pledge not to advertise on BusRadio and Channel One, two companies that compel school children to watch or listen to advertising.

The letters were endorsed by 40 organizations and 64 children’s advocates.  Endorsers include the American Family Association, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumers Union, Eagle Forum, Global Exchange and the National PTA, as well as the National Council of Churches Committee on Public Education and Literacy and the Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Child Advocacy.

The letters are the first step in a new campaign to remove BusRadio and Channel One from every school in the United States.  The campaign is organized by Commercial Alert, the Center for a New American Dream and Obligation, Inc.

Following is today’s letter to the leading national advertisers and ad agencies.

Dear Corporate/Ad Agency Leader:

As you know, advertising is now commonplace in the public schools. Yet, many advertising and marketing professionals have deep misgivings about marketing to school children. According to a 2004 Harris poll of youth advertising and marketing professionals, only 45% “feel that today’s young people can handle advertising in schools.” Not surprisingly, 47% believe that “schools should be a protected area” and that “there should not be advertising to students on school grounds.”

We are writing to ask for your help to turn your industry’s conscience into a reality, and to protect our children and their education from aggressive marketers.

Channel One is a highly controversial in-school marketing company that delivers televised content to nearly 11,500 schools throughout the nation.  In exchange for video equipment, these schools now spend one full school week each year watching television, including one full school day just for the ads.  According to the Harris poll, 61% of youth marketing professionals believe that it is “inappropriate” for companies like Channel One to “provid[e] instructional material that integrates brand names and products into the lessons.”

BusRadio is the newest foray of advertisers into public schools. It seeks to install special radio equipment into school buses that will carry that company’s offerings, including eight minutes of ads per hour.  In its contract with school districts, BusRadio does not rule out advertising any particular type of products.  If Channel One is any guide, we might expect BusRadio to advertise junk food, soda pop, violent and sexualized entertainment, and movies that encourage school children to smoke tobacco.

Whatever BusRadio advertises, children as young as six will have no choice as to whether to listen or not.  Nor will their parents be able to exercise any control over their children’s exposure. The sales pitches will fill the bus and interfere with those children who want to read, study, talk, pray, or do almost anything else other than listen to the programming.  According to the Harris poll, 69% of youth advertising and marketing professionals believe that “advertising on school buses” is “inappropriate.”

We agree with these professionals.  We believe it is wrong for a company to use compulsory school attendance laws to force a captive audience of children to listen to advertising. As most practitioners in the field recognize, successful advertising depends on the willing participation of both advertiser and consumer. BusRadio and Channel One violate this fundamental principle.

We are asking your [company/agency] to pledge by October 15 not to buy advertising on BusRadio or Channel One.  We hope you will join with us and affirm that school children should not be compelled to listen to or watch advertising.

We will follow up with you in the next two weeks about whether your [company/agency] will make this pledge. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss at your convenience the issues in this letter.  Please feel free to call Jim Metrock of Obligation, Inc. at (205) 822-0080, Gary Ruskin of Commercial Alert at (503) 235-8012, or Monique Tilford of the Center for a New American Dream at (301) 891-3683.  We look forward to your reply.


Action Coalition for Media Education
Alliance for Childhood
American Family Association
California Center for Public Health Advocacy
Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood
Center for a New American Dream
Center for Community and Corporate Ethics
Center for Ecoliteracy
Center for Food & Justice, UEPI, Occidental College
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Center for Screen-Time Awareness
Children Now
Children’s Health Environmental Coalition
Coalition for Commercial-Free Schools
Concerned Women for America
Commercial Alert
Consumer Action
Consumers Union
Corporate Ethics International
Dads & Daughters
Eagle Forum
Essential Action
Global Citizen Center
Global Exchange
Massachusetts Action for Healthy Kids
Massachusetts Public Health Association
National Council of Churches Committee on Public Education and Literacy
National PTA
Obligation, Inc.
Organic Consumers Association
Parents’ Action for Children
Simple Living Network
Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment (TRUCE)
The Motherhood Project
The Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Child Advocacy
The Simplicity Forum
Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
Vermont Earth Institute

Cecile Andrews, author, The Circle of Simplicity
Joan Blades, co-founder, MoveOn.org; co-author, Motherhood Manifesto
Dina Borzekowski, EdD, Assistant Professor, Department of Health, Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
David Bosworth, Associate Professor, Creative Writing Program, Department of English, University of Washington
T. Berry Brazelton, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Emeritus, Harvard Medical School, Children’s Hospital Boston; Founder, Brazelton Touchpoints Center; co-author, Touchpoints 0-3 and Touchpoints 3-6
Brita Butler-Wall, PhD, Member, Seattle School Board; Executive Director, Citizens’ Campaign for Commercial-Free Schools
Raffi Cavoukian, singer, author, founder of Child Honoring
Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Director, Child Health Institute, University of Washington School of Medicine; co-author, The Elephant in the Living Room: Make Television Work for Your Kids
Thomas J. Cottle, PhD, Professor of Education, Boston University; author, When the Music StoppedSense of Self and At Peril
Donald R. Davis, PhD, Research Associate, Biochemical Institute, University of Texas at Austin
John De Graaf, co-author, Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic
Nathan Dungan, President and Founder, Share, Save, Spend; author, Prodigal Sons & Material Girls
Teresa K. Duryea, MD, Associate Professor, Academic General Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine
The Rev. O. C. Edwards, Jr., Episcopal priest (retired); Co-chair, National Council of Churches Faith & Order Commission
Marjorie V. Fields, EdD, Professor Emeritus, Early Childhood Education, University of Alaska SE
Roy F. Fox, Professor and Chair, Department of Learning,Teaching, & Curriculum, University of Missouri-Columbia; author,Harvesting Minds and MediaSpeak
Henry A. Giroux, PhD, Global Television Network Chair Professor, English and Cultural Studies, McMaster University; author,America on the EdgeThe Abandoned Generation, and Teachers as Intellectuals
Todd Gitlin, PhD, Professor of Journalism and Sociology, Columbia University; author, The Intellectuals and the FlagThe Sixties, and Media Unlimited
Joan Gussow, EdD, M. S. Rose Professor Emeritus, Nutrition and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University
Jon D. Hanson, Professor of Law, Harvard Law School
Hal Hamilton, Executive Director, Sustainability Institute
Jacqueline Hamilton, Executive Director, Educational Consortium of Central LA
Randy Hayes, Executive Director, International Forum on Globalization
Sut Jhally, PhD, Founder and Executive Director, The Media Education Foundation
Carden Johnston, MD, FAAP, FRCP, Past President, American Academy of Pediatrics
Tim Kasser, PhD, Associate Professor of Psychology, Knox College; author, The High Price of Materialism
Francine Kaufman, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California; author, Diabesity: A Doctor and Her Patients on the Front Lines of the Obesity-Diabetes Epidemic
Stephanie Kaza, Professor, Environmental Program, University of Vermont
Jean Kilbourne, author, Can’t Buy My Love: How Advertising Changes the Way We Think and Feel
David C. Korten, author, When Corporations Rule the World and The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community
Velma LaPoint, PhD, Professor, Department of Human Development & Psychoeducational Studies, Howard University
Frances Moore Lappe, author, Diet for a Small Planet and Democracy’s Edge; co-author, Hope’s Edge
Diane E. Levin, PhD, Professor of Education, Wheelock College; author, Remote Control Childhood
David Marshak, PhD, Professor, College of Education, Seattle University
Robert McChesney, PhD, Research Professor, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; author, The Problem of the Media
Bob McCannon. Founding Executive Director, The New Mexico Media Literacy Project
Bernard McGrane, PhD, Associate Professor of Sociology, Chapman University; author, The Un-TV and the 10 Mph Car
Bill McKibben, author, The End of NatureEnoughWandering Home, and The Age of Missing Information
Robert A. Mendelson MD, FAAP
Tom Meyer, PhD, Director, Hudson Valley Writing Project; Associate Professor of Secondary Education, SUNY New Paltz
Mark Crispin Miller, PhD, Professor of Professor of Culture and Communication, New York University; author of Boxed InThe Bush Dyslexicon and Fooled Again
Stephanie Mills, author, Epicurean Simplicity
Diane M. Morrison, PhD, Professor, University of Washington School of Social Work
Peggy O’Mara, editor and publisher, Mothering Magazine
Kathleen G. Nelson, MD, FAAP, Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Professor of Pediatrics, University of Alabama School of Medicine
Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, New York University; author,Food PoliticsSafe Food and What to Eat
Terry Parsons, Staff Officer for Stewardship, the Episcopal Church in the United States of America
Mary Pipher, author, Reviving OpheliaWriting to Change the World and Letters to a Young Therapist
Alvin F. Poussaint, MD, Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; Director, Media Center, Judge Baker Children’s Center
Vicki Robin, co-author, Your Money or Your Life
Jeanne and Dick Roy, Co-Founders, Northwest Earth Institute
John Ruby, DMD, PhD, Associate Professor of Pediatric Dentistry, School of Dentistry, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Susan Sarandon
Juliet Schor, PhD, Professor, Department of Sociology, Boston College; author, Born to BuyThe Overspent American and The Overworked American
Donald Shifrin, MD, FAAP, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine
Michele Simon, JD, MPH, Adjunct Professor, University of California, Hastings College of the Law; author, Appetite for Profit
Joshua Sparrow, MD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; co-author, Touchpoints 0-3 and Touchpoints 3-6
Inger L. Stole, Associate Professor, Institute of Communications Research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; author,Advertising on Trial
Vic Strasburger, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, University of New Mexico School of Medicine; co-author, Children, Adolescents, & the Media
Charles Terry, former President, The Philanthropic Collaborative
Julie Taylor, Children, Youth and Family Advocacy, Women’s Division, United Methodist Church
Rev. Romal J. Tune, CEO  Clergy Strategic Alliances, LLC
Jeff Weissglass, Board Chair, More Than Money Institute
Frederick J. Zimmerman, PhD, Associate Professor, Departments of Health Services & Pediatrics, University of Washington; co-author, The Elephant in the Living Room: Make Television Work for Your Kids

<—–letter ends here—–>

For background about BusRadio, see: http://www.commercialalert.org/issues/education/busradio and https://obligation.org/busradiohome.php

For background about Channel One, see: http://www.commercialalert.org/issues/education/channel-one andhttps://obligation.org/channelonehome.php

Commercial Alert’s mission is to keep the commercial culture within its proper sphere, and to prevent it from exploiting children and subverting the higher values of family, community, environmental integrity and democracy. For more information, see http://www.commercialalert.org.


The Center for a New American Dream helps Americans consume responsibly to protect the environment, enhance quality of life, and promote social justice. We work with individuals, institutions, communities, and businesses to conserve natural resources, counter the commercialization of our culture, and promote positive changes in the way goods are produced and consumed. For more information, http://www.NewDream.org/noschoolads.

Obligation, Inc. works to remind businesses and governments of their responsibility to children. For more information, see:https://obligation.org.




Primedia Discontinues Operations on Education Unit
Continues to ‘Explore All Options’ for Channel One

By Claire Atkinson

Published: December 20, 2006

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) — Primedia is discontinuing the education segment that houses Channel One, according to a statement issued today. A spokeswoman for the company insisted this doesn’t mean the business is closing.

Ad revenue for the schools-based network fell 28% for the first nine months of the year.

The statement, in financial legalese, reads: “The extent of the company’s progress in exploring strategic options for the assets in its education segment will cause the company to classify this segment as a discontinued operation in the fourth quarter of 2006.”

One executive with knowledge of the talks said Primedia is negotiating with an executive who may assume some of the liabilities of Channel One, which include the school contracts and the equipment and studio costs, along with the talent. Channel One helped launch the careers of CNN’s Anderson Cooper and National Geographic’s Lisa Ling.

‘No final decisions’
While Channel One staffers, which number between 50 and 100, wait to find out their fate, a spokeswoman said: “No final decisions have been made. Primedia continues to explore all options relating to Channel One.”

Primedia’s education segment houses Channel One; the Films Media Group, which produces educational video; and Primedia Healthcare, another education firm. Channel One has been the target of two consumer-protection groups, Commercial Alert and Obligation Inc., which have urged marketers not to advertise on the schools-based service. The channel also was hurt by the loss of major U.S. government ad funding.

For the first nine months of the year, ad revenue in the education segment fell 27.8%, to $17.1 million from $23.7 million, while third-quarter ad revenue fell to $3.7 million from $4.2 million, off almost 12%.

Tags: , ,