Houghton Mifflin/Channel One plays dirty trick on First Lady

June 10, 2014
Linda Zecher

Houghton Mifflin’s CEO Linda Zecher

From Jim Metrock:

Channel One’s CEO Ms. CJ Kettler has advertised Sunny D junk drink ads along side healthy lifestyle public service announcements before.  Click here. It is hoped that no nonprofit organization that in any way promotes healthy living for young people will ever again partner with Channel One News, now owned by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  Why would any health organization place a PSA on the program, if Channel One can decide on its own to follow or precede your PSA with a junk food commercial?

Unfortunately it has happened again, although this time it’s not Ms. Kettler’s fault.

It’s Linda Zecher’s fault.

One of the first Channel One News shows under the new control of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt was the May 16, 2014 show.

On that program, Channel One News aired a public service announcement for Michelle Obama’s Drink Up campaign.  The message the First Lady attempts to get across to students is drinking water is good for you.  Hard to argue with that, but Ms. Zecher evidently thought young people ought to be given an alternative to plain old, blah water.  So her Channel One show also aired a commercial for a new sugary Sunny D drink.

Note the understated First Lady ad for water drinking compared with the rapping, energetic ad for SunnyD.  Which one will students remember? (Video is at the bottom.)

First Lady Drink Up PSA

Soft and low-key – Screen shot from the First Lady’s Drink Up public service announcement on Houghton Mifflin/Channel One News on May 16, 2014.


SunnyD chiller

Colorful, energetic, and funny, Sunny D’s commercial overpowers the First Lady’s simpler PSA. Houghton Mifflin/Channel One gets paid by Sunny D to air its commercials in American classrooms; no money changes hands with the First Lady’s PSA.

Anybody trying to excuse Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for airing a   junk food ad to middle and high school students, would say that HMH had just bought Channel One three days before.  Surely HMH can’t be responsible for a commercial that had already been set to air.  Channel One’s former CEO CJ Kettler was responsible for agreeing to this irresponsible and unhealthy ad, not Houghton Mifflin’s Linda Zecher.

Sorry.  it doesn’t work that way.

When a company prepares to acquire another company, they do a “due diligence” investigation of the company to be acquired.  Every aspect of Channel One was reviewed.  Houghton Mifflin looked hard at the companies advertising on Channel One News.  Since ads are Channel One’s primary source of revenue, what was being advertised would be extremely important to Houghton Mifflin.

Linda Zecher knew, or should have known, that Channel One had been heavily promoting sugary Sunny D to students.  She could have told Channel One’ CJ Kettler that once HMH takes over Channel One News there will be NO JUNK FOOD ADS. EVER!  But she didn’t say that.  Why not?  Were you badly served by those below you?  Even if so, Ms. Zecher is paid the big money to be ultimately responsible.

My message to Houghton Mifflin’s CEO Linda Zecher is simple:

1. Apologize to our First Lady Michelle Obama.  Make your apology public.

2. Publicly promise to never again advertise anything that is of little nutritional value and is high in fat, sugar, salt, or calories.  Don’t make money selling junk food to kids.

3.  And if you want to keep Houghton Mifflin Harcourt from becoming an educational pariah like Channel One, remove all advertising from your Channel One News classroom TV show and from your Channelone.com site.


See for yourself:  Clips from Channel One News, May 16, 2014


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