Channel One’s Mixed Grade By Constance L. Hays (Dec. 5, 1999)

June 23, 2017

Channel One News fighting to keep advertising in classrooms. December 5, 1999

From the archives.

“Youth is critical to the soft-drink business,” said C.J. Fraleigh, vice president for cola marketing for Pepsi-Cola, which has advertised on Channel One since its inception. “That’s when so many people form their brand preferences.” He said Channel One was attractive to Pepsi because it reaches teenagers as efficiently as the Super Bowl reaches men. By his estimate, 35 percent to 40 percent of the students who watch Channel One pay attention to and remember the Pepsi ads it carries. “There is no other vehicle to get those sorts of numbers of teens on a daily basis,” he said.

Seventh graders at the 600-student Benjamin Franklin Middle School, where Bencivenga is principal, seemed to bear out Fraleigh’s view. “My whole class started banging on the desks when the Pepsi commercial came on,” one boy said, humming the “Joy of Cola” theme song that Pepsi introduced this spring.

For the privilege of beaming the ads into classrooms, neither Channel One nor its advertisers contribute any cash to Benjamin Franklin Middle School’s $54 million annual budget; the only benefits for the schools are the use of the equipment and whatever instructional value can be found in the programs. Some parents question whether it is a fair bargain.

“I would hope that our children wouldn’t be sold at any price,” said Dr. Michael Doyle, a pediatrician from Bloomfield, N.J., where the local superintendent wanted to bring in Channel One earlier this year but was overruled by the board of education. “But goodness, if you’re going to sell them, why sell them so cheaply?”

Other parents go further, saying that taxpayers are in effect subsidizing Channel One. “There’s no money passing hands, but to give up that hour a week of school time makes these the most expensive TV sets you ever laid eyes on,” said Jim Metrock, a former steel executive from Birmingham, Ala., who started an advocacy group called Obligation Inc. five years ago that has become a vocal opponent of Channel One. “That school time was purchased by taxpayers. If you watch Channel One for 90 percent of the school days, it adds up to 31 hours a year.


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