is a twelve-minute television news program targeted to teenagers
and distributed via satellite to over 12,000 middle and high schools
across the United States each school day morning. This represents
an audience of over eight million students, with thousands of other
schools currently on a waiting list to receive the program. Channel
One became, almost from its inception, a highly controversial
educational program offering, primarily because two minutes of each
program are devoted to advertising.
began its pilot phase in January 1989 originally as a production
of Whittle Communications, Inc. in Knoxville, Tennessee, and was
heavily promoted by the company's founder, Christopher Whittle.
In 1995, Whittle Communications, Inc. closed, and sold Channel
One to K-III Communications Corporation, a large diversified
communications company focused on education, information and magazine
publishing. Among its titles are Weekly Reader, Funk and Wagnell's
New Encyclopedia, and Seventeen magazine.
In order for
a school to receive Channel One, it must sign a three-year
agreement to carry the program in its entirety each school day,
and make the telecast available to at least 90 percent of the student
body. In return, each school receives a satellite dish (TVRO), two
videocassette recorders, one 19-inch television set per classroom
and all of the necessary cabling. No money is exchanged.
One news content is geared to teenagers, and delivered by anchors
and reporters typically in their early to mid-20s. Program content
includes the latest news as well as week-long series for more depth
on such topics as jobs, drug abuse, science and technology and international
politics. According to Channel One, its news programming
has "five educational goals:
1. To enhance
2. To promote critical thinking
3. To provide a common language and shared experience
4. To provide relevance and motivation 5. To strengthen character
and build a sense of responsibility"
has received many awards including the Advertising Council's Silver
Bell Award for "outstanding public service and a George Foster Peabody
Award for the series "A Decade of AIDs."
to the daily Channel One news program, schools are also provided
with approximately 250 hours per school year of noncommercial educational
programming (through an agreement with Pacific Mountain Network)
that is designed to serve as a supplemental teaching tool to support
Photo courtesy of Channel One
in the educational community and elsewhere have decried Channel
One on the basis that it commercializes the classroom environment,
and some have expressed concern that there may be an implicit endorsement
of the products shown. Channel One characterizes its role
as a positive partnership between the educational and business communities.
They cite, for example, a three-year study of Channel One
by a team, commissioned by Whittle, from the University of Michigan.
Among the study's findings were apparent increases in awareness
and knowledge of current events by the audience, and the judgment
by a majority of teachers surveyed that they would recommend the
program to other teachers. Other studies have found that Channel
One's stated commitment to community service is evidenced by
a high percentage (about 15%) of the commercial time being given
to public service announcements. And in a 1993 report published
in Educational Leadership, 90% of teachers thought Channel
One included the "most important events of the previous day."
Others teachers, critics, and evaluators, however, still find the
idea of students viewing advertising in the classroom anathema.
The debate continues.
B. S and J.E. Brand. "Television News and Advertising in Schools:
The Channel One Controversy." Journal of Communication (New
L. R. "Whittle Pleased by its Study of Channel One." The Knoxville
News-Sentinel (Knoxville, Tennessee), 4 February 1994.
D. "Channel One: Good or Bad News for Our Schools?" Educational
Leadership (Alexandria, Virginia) May 1993.
"Exploring the Effectiveness of the Channel One School Telecasts."
Educational Technology (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey), May
K. T. and B. Mueller. "Channel One and Commercials in Classrooms:
Advertising Content Aimed at Students." Journalism Quarterly
(Urbana, Illinois), 1992.