1996: The high point of Channel One’s kiddie marketing dreams.

January 16, 2013


channel one new course 1996


From Jim Metrock: 

This is one of my favorite articles. I clipped it out of Advertising Age magazine way back in 1996. 

Heidi Diamond was just hired by Channel One News to help take the kiddie marketing company to new heights. In 1996, Channel One was making so much money it was obscene. Forbes magazine reported that the company was selling 30-second commercials on the classroom TV show for over $250,000 – an astonishing amount.  

Ms. Diamond was quoted saying, “The first order of business is to define the brand.” Channel One executives wanted their company to be like MTV. They believed their brand had the potential to have great value. Their dream was to have young people, wearing clothes with a Channel One logo, going to the movie theater to see a Channel One produced movie.  It was never to be.

Ms. Diamond’s timing was not good. The same time Ms. Diamond started work at Channel One was when Mrs. Pat Ellis of Jasper, AL called me after reading an article about my work in getting advertisers in Alabama to remove their commercials from the trashy TV talk shows that dominated daytime television at the time.  She said she wanted to help me in this effort. We met for lunch and she brought with her a thick folder.  She asked me if I had ever heard of “Channel One News.” I said I think it is shown in schools. That is all I knew even though I later found out my two teenage boys had been required to watch it for years. 

Ms. Ellis had single-handedly removed Channel One from her Jasper City schools the previous year.  The folder contained information about Channel One.  I said I would look it over.

I did. 

That very night I went through the folder and could not believe something like Channel One existed in any public school.  The idea that a school would turn over one hour of school time each week to this New York marketing company was unbelievable, but what floored me even more was that Channel One News had commercials.  

How could any school administrator or teacher allow precious school time to be wasted on content solely determined by an out-of-state youth marketing company? How could any public school allow private companies to usurp taxpayer-funded school time to sell students Pepsi, Snickers, and M&Ms (the big advertisers in 1996) or any product?

While Ms. Diamond and Company were plotting the advancement of Channel One’s brand, Ms. Ellis and I agreed that the first order of business for Obligation was to “kill the (Channel One) brand.”  Which we did within a few years.  

Obligation began a nationwide effort to get reporters to write articles about the controversial Channel One News contract with schools. All of a sudden the controversy that surrounded the company in the first years of its existence was back. Channel One was unprepared for Obligation’s relentless efforts to drag them into the sunshine of public scrutiny. In less than two years Heidi Diamond was gone from Channel One.  Martin Grant too saw the handwriting on the wall and he jumped ship after three years

Obligation’s efforts to expose Channel One paid off in 1999. 

A May 1999 Senate Education subcommittee hearing on the Channel One controversy resulted from Obligation’s efforts. Channel One tried frantically to stop the hearing and in doing so did some very unethical things in the state of Alabama as reported by The New Republic.  Channel One failed in their efforts to stop the hearing and came out of the hearing with a badly damaged “brand.”

The very next month, in Atlanta, Georgia, the brand died.

For months in early 1999 Obligation had been suppling information about Channel One News to the delegates to the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.  We supplied tapes of Channel One’s advertising that were truly repulsive. These included ads for movies with sexual, violent, and drug content that Channel One News was regularly dumping on middle school students. They saw Channel One News commercials for junk food that was harming the health of American schoolchildren.

In June when the Convention overwhelmingly passed a resolution urging schools to remove Channel One News from schools, the Channel One News brand died. 

Oh, the company still lingers around, but it is a shell of its former self. When Heidi Diamond was at Channel One the captive audience was 8 million.  Today it is 4 million-something. Schools disregard the viewing requirements of the contract and treat it like the sham contract it is, and therefore advertising rates are a small fraction of what they were in 1996.



The history of Channel One News in two pictures.


Channel One continues to lose schools.


The reasons Channel One News is barely surviving. (If you have the time)


VIDEO: The truth about Channel One News









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