Profit-Driven Corporations Hit the Ultimate Marketplace: The Classroom

“Students are being bought and sold by advertisers without even leaving their school yard”
- (Apple 143)

T oday, educational institutions are not what they used to be. U.S. schools now resemble modern shopping malls as corporate advertising begins to flood the education system. Ever since 1980 when Ronald Regan issued education cutbacks, federal funding for U.S. schools has declined (Captive Audience 20:11). As a solution to this funding gap, 12,000 schools have made deals with Channel One, a U.S. television news network that delivers 12-minute daily news programming to students (Bachen 133). Channel One provides schools with new educational materials, although in return, 8,000,000 students are confronted by advertisements within the Channel One program (Fox 3). Since Channel One was released, there has been much controversy over the program’s quality, purpose, and its influence on students. While Channel One staff and lobbyists argue that the program’s purpose is to provide educational news for students, media critics argue that 1

Channel One is a fragmented advertising medium more than a news provider (Apple 141). During the surfacing of Channel One, other forms of commercial advertising have made their way into schools via their guarantee that they will provide schools with the funding they need (Aidman, par. 2). What does this say about the future of the U.S. education system? According to Michael Apple, the author of Selling Our Children: Channel One and the Politics of Education, corporate advertising has transformed U.S. schools from an institution marked by educational values to a competitive marketplace. If the government does not provide schools with the funding they need, corporate interests will drive the education system.

Classrooms Merge with the Marketplace

The public sphere has been filled with commercial advertising for over 100 years and now it has made its way into schools (Richards 151). According to Henry Giroux, a U.S. cultural critic, “Marketers no longer wait until the end of the school day to market to children” (Captive Audience 1:32). He explains that marketers want to get into schools because kids are a source of great profits. According to Naomi Klein, the author of No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, ‘the school’ is the ultimate market niche. She argues that advertisers view schools as an opportunity for their brands because students care and know about them (Captive Audience 1:51). Authors and media critics, Heath and Potter, explain that children are the target market among advertisers because they do not have fixed preferences and do not fully understand the value of money. These ideas help to explain why advertising to kids has skyrocketed over the last 50 years (Heath and


Potter 208). In 1999, a study by Advertising Age magazine concluded that the U.S. spent over $12,000,000,000 on advertising to kids, when compared to past years, is a staggering increase (see figure 1). Heath and Potter argue that spending has increased because advertising is a successful means of public persuasion, especially to children (Heath & Potter 209).

Money Spent In U.S. On Advertising To Kids
14,000,000,000 12,000,000,000 10,000,000,000 8,000,000,000 6,000,000,000 $ Amount 4,000,000,000 2,000,000,000 50,000,000 0 1 1964 1


600,000,000 1989 2 Year



Figure 1 The exponential growth of advertising spending to kids [Kelly Foss]

Channel One Contract

Schools view Channel One as a promising medium to help boost their productivity. A contract with Channel One guarantees free equipment for schools such as VCR’s, television monitors, a satellite dish, additional funds, and the agreement to service Channel One for 3 years. In return, schools have to guarantee that 90% of their students will be watching attentively (Apple 139). Since these terms seem straightforward,


schools quickly buy into the programming. Thousands of public schools with lowincome students are the main educational institutions adopting Channel One because they are in need of funding (Bachen 140). By signing a contract with Channel One, schools get the benefit of $30,000 worth of audio-visual equipment (Bachen 132). U.S. schools that carry Channel One are more focused on obtaining this money to buy new equipment for their schools than providing their students with news programming (Richards 152). School boards that have signed contracts with Channel One openly admit that the ability to purchase new technology is the primary reason for complying with Channel One (Bachen 135).

Channel One’s Ulterior Motive

Channel One promotes it’s programming to both schools and advertisers. When Channel One is endorsed in schools, it is promoted as an essential education medium for students to learn about current news and events, however the company advertises its true motive to the rest of the public. Arnold Fege, a member of the Public Education Network, argues that Channel One advertises itself as a public service to schools, when in reality, it is a service driven by private interests (Apple 137). Channel One is being endorsed through all forms of media including Advertising Age magazine (Aidman, par. 4). Here, Channel One publicly promotes their devious objective to get into schools to make a profit. Channel One uses catchy slogans that promote their programming as an effective vehicle for reaching teens because it demands the full attention of students. For example, Channel One is described as “The Smartest place to reach teens,” and “A


network that rocks more teens than MTV” (Captive Audience 16:48). These slogans reveal Channel One’s profit driven motive. Back in 1991, a 30 second commercial spot on Channel One sold for $120,000, and now, this number has risen to $200,000 as more schools make deals with Channel One (Apple 142). Thanks to advertising income, Channel One earns over $100,000,000 annually (Fox 8). Channel One makes this money by reaching millions of people and signing millions of deals with advertisers.

Channel One News: Informative or Persuasive?

According to Channel One lobbyists, Channel One programming is an important vehicle for informing students about current news. They insist that providing students with current news is important because 2/3s of students do not read the newspaper and up to 90% do not watch television news (Captive Audience 14:27). Hoynes, a professor of sociology at Vassar College, New York, questions Channel One lobbyist’s claim that Channel One is a vehicle to deliver current news because of the program’s commercial advertising (Captive Audience 14:06). According to Klein, Channel One news programming is characterized by soft news driven by advertising. She advises that Channel One tries to conceal the fact that 17% of the program is composed of commercial advertisements, which promote products of teenage consumption such as jeans, snack foods, soft drinks, skin products, athletic shoes etc (Bachen 134).

The presence of advertising in Channel One programming has led Hoynes to question Channel One’s designation as ‘news programming.’ He questioned, “If Channel One is


considered news programming while it is filled with advertising, how do we define news?” He concludes that Channel One’s programming should not be regarded as ‘news,’ but rather soft, fragmented, programming (Captive Audience 14:17). According to Klein, Channel One is an ineffective medium at ‘informing students’ because of its fragmented structure (Captive Audience 15:50). A study back in 1994 concluded that there is no significant difference between students’ knowledge of current events who watch Channel One and those who are not confronted by Channel One (Fox 4). Thus, Channel One students are not better informed.

A documentary titled Captive Audience: Advertising Invades The Classroom, illustrates how Channel One’s alleged 12 minute news broadcast, is a program marked by fragmented news feeds and advertising. It shows how Channel One cannot be defined wholly as a news program because it delivers 2 minutes of commercial advertising within the 12-minute time frame. Meanwhile, within the 10 minutes of the alleged ‘news broadcast,’ 3 minutes is composed of current events on weather, sports, disasters, and or entertainment. The rest of the time is devoted to soft news, which incorporates flashy imagery, pop quizzes, and introductory and closing segments (see figure 2). Hoynes explains that news events on Channel One consistently pop on and off the screen (Captive Audience 16:10). The lack of ‘sufficient news’ in Channel One programming clarifies why Channel One students are not better informed than non-viewers.


Figure 2 The Fragmented Channel One News Programming [Kelly Foss]

Commercial Advertising Influence


Studies have shown that Channel One’s commercial advertisements are more popular among students than those that are not advertised on Channel One (Bachen 143). For example, a study back in 1993 asked both Channel One viewers and non-viewers to rate popular consumer products from the most to least desirable. The results concluded that Channel One viewers rated products that had been seen in Channel One commercial advertisements higher than those that were not advertised in Channel One. This test showed how Channel One’s commercial advertising is successful at persuading student viewers (Greenberg 1993). According to teachers of Channel One students, the students mostly pay attention to the commercials in Channel One (Captive Audience 17:20). They explained that the lyrics of Channel One commercials reach the students more than the soft news (Apple 143). One teacher said quote, “Our kids repeat them, they sing the songs, and they remember them” (Captive Audience 17:29).


Alex Molnar, a media professor at Arizona State University, argues that with the existence of advertising in schools, students become objects that are manipulated and consumed (Captive Audience 32:14). Molnar insists that commercial advertising does influence students and therefore schools should be warned before they sign a deal with Channel One. A study by consumer adverting critics, Goldberg and Gorn, helped to prove Molnar’s claim. Their study involved two groups of children: one group was assigned to watch a 10 minute program with two toy commercials, while the other group was assigned to watch the same program but without the commercials. Thereafter, Goldberg and Gorn showed two pictures to each group. One was an illustration of a ‘nice boy without a toy’ and the other was a ‘not so nice boy with a toy’ that was seen in the commercial ad. Thereafter, the children were asked to choose whether they would want to play with the ‘nice boy who does not have a toy’ or the ‘not so nice boy that has a toy’ that was seen in the ad. As a result, an astounding 65% of the group of children who saw the ad chose the ‘not so nice kid,’ while 70% of the group that did not see that ad chose the ‘nice kid’ (Goldberg and Gorn 22-29). Thus, commercial advertising seems to impact student choices.

Schools/Education System

According to Apple, schools have become ‘slaves’ to corporations in order to better equip their schools and supply their students with basic resources such as pencils and paper (Apple 138). While funding for education has declined, the cost of educational materials has increased. Today, required course textbooks, math software, and


environmental videos cost schools between $30 to $150 each and it costs approximately $5,000 to provide agenda booklets for a school populace. As a result, schools turn to programs such as Channel One to get the materials they need. Steven Edwards, a school principle from Hartford Connecticut, explained how his school purchased new student desks with the money from corporations to which he called ‘candy money’ (Captive Audience 23:14).

Channel One & other In-School Advertising

Since Channel One was introduced, other forms of advertising media have entered into schools. Today, mass forms of advertising media are becoming common in the school environment. Company endorsements are not only being stamped on school jerseys and within school newspapers and magazines, but throughout school classrooms, halls, and bathroom walls, and on gymnasium scoreboards (Richards 151).

In addition to being confronted with advertising around their schools, students are being faced with advertising imbedded in their educational material. In the modern era, more corporations are giving schools free educational materials that are filled with promotional content (Bachen 142). Schools are accepting ‘corporate-sponsored educational materials’ because they cannot afford to buy them directly. While schools are benefiting from free materials, students are negatively being confronted with advertisements in the midst of learning. Today, students are measuring Oreo cookies in


math, solving business problems involving Pepsi and Coca Cola, and learning about the environment with Nike’s recycling program (Captive Audience 7:02). Plus, there are even full ads placed in textbooks without any connection to the educational material (see figure 3). According to Klein, because of the rise in sponsored educational material, classroom materials are beginning to resemble modern magazines (Heath and Potter 209).

Figure 3 Corporate Sponsored textbook with full ad for Culver’s Fast Food Chain [Kelly Foss]

Advertising is also making its way into schools through corporate-sponsored contests and incentive programs, which bring brand names into schools through student rewards such as free giveaways. For example, Dole Foods gives free software and additional teaching materials to schools to increase young children’s knowledge about good nutrition. Also, Pizza Hut gets involved by delivering free reading calendars to schools, for teachers to track their student’s performance. Known as the ‘Book It Program,’ students are rewarded with a personal pan pizza (Captive Audience 9:06). Along with the calendar, Pizza Hut and Applebees provide teachers with free coupons for their stores to use as rewards for their students. Other items such as free posters and stickers are also


forms of advertising given away by companies to bring their brands into schools (Richards 152).

In the midst of profiting from Channel One and other corporate-sponsored advertising deals, schools are signing exclusive contracts with soft drink and candy corporations (Richards 160). For example, schools are making deals with companies such as Pepsi. In this process, Pepsi will provide schools with vending machines on the guarantee that the schools will only market and sell Pepsi products and not a product competitor such as Coca Cola. What is the problem with soda contracts? While the schools profit from these deals, the advertising is negatively influencing students, to buy one product. Plus, to worsen the situation, students are also given access to purchase and consume these unhealthy products since they are readily available in school (Fox 9).

Corporate Advertising and Mixed Messages

As corporations such as Channel One and outside advertisers make their way into schools, a line becomes blurred between the education system and propaganda. Media critics fear that when students view advertisements in an educational setting, whether through Channel One or other advertising media, they will constitute the advertisements as ‘credible’ and or products that are ‘approved’ by the education system (Fox 7). For example, while schools require health classes that teach students about the importance of healthy eating, they also provide students with vending machines that are filled with junk food products (Captive Audience 28:22). Thus, school-business partnerships cause


mixed messages (Bachen 137). According to Deborah Stead, the author of Corporations, Classroom, and Commercialism, schools and corporate interests should not be united. She argues, “Shouldn’t schools be the one place we can get away from advertisements?” “First the Nike cheerleaders, next thing you know, it’ll be the Nike schools” (Richards 159).

Channel One Perspectives

Consumer Critics According to Michael Jacobson, an advertising critic who specializes in the study of commercialism, “Kids are seen as a market to be exploited, and school systems, starved for money, are being forced to sell out their students for advertising dollars” (Richards 156). Jacobson concludes that as schools sell themselves to corporations, teachers will begin to have less control over the education process. According to Klein, corporate advertising threatens the values of education through the promotion of market values. She explains that the education system is supposed to be about learning and thinking critically about constructing answers, and advertising overpowers these values by giving students the answers (Captive Audience 4:55). Advertising directly tells students what they should buy and why. For example, Hostess Potato Chips’ slogan states, "If you got the munchies, nothing else will do!” and Dole Foods’ motto states “The man from Del Monte, he says yes." These slogans capture the emotions of students by identifying a common need among them and providing a solution to it.



Channel One advertisers and other marketers within schools argue that their promotional materials are educational (Fox 11). While these companies promote their inschool advertising as ‘educational materials,’ individual representatives of these companies bluntly explain that schools are a great marketplace (Richards 157). For example, while Cadbury Schweppes claims that Dr Pepper’s promotions are educational packages, spokespeople for Dr Pepper have revealed that these packages are primarily created to reach the youth market (Stead 1997). Dr. Pepper insists that by influencing children’s tastes now, it will influence their soft drink preferences for the future (Richards 155). Similar to Cadbury Schweppes, the PepsiCo Corporation argues that the main purpose of advertising Pepsi is to help fund the education system. However, a branch manager at PepsiCo mistakenly publicized that their primary mission is to make profit off of students. The branch manger revealed, “We’re apart of the community. We feel we have to give back. There’s the bottom line, too. We have to sell cases” (Richards 157). Thus, corporate sponsors have admitted that schools are a great place to market their products and inevitably make profit.

School Board Staff

Most School Administrators admit that Channel One and other corporate advertising contracts are not positive business deals to enhance student learning, but rather quality solutions for low-income schools. They understand that Channel One advertisers take


advantage of students as profitable consumers, however they see it as an ‘okay’ solution because it provides schools with essential funds. A nationwide study of 100 school boards that carry Channel One showed that the majority support the program because of its profitable benefits, although they understand it is not the best solution (Bachen 139). John Stanford, a superintendent of the school system in Seattle explained, “Our financial situation is forcing us to be entrepreneurial. If we were getting what we should be getting from the state legislator, we wouldn’t be looking at this kind of approach.” (Richards 158).

Students & Parents

Students view Channel One and other advertising vehicles in schools as neither entirely negative nor beneficial. While some students believe that schools should be adfree, others find joy in watching and reading in-school advertisements (Richards 157). Similar to students, parents are not ‘all for’ or ‘against’ Channel One. Most Parents of Channel One students tolerate school advertising, however, only on the condition that beer and cigarette advertising is restricted. Others argue that advertising in schools should be avoided because it creates commercialized settings. They fear that students will become consumers rather than educated individuals (Richards 159). Becky Convoy, a mother of a student who is exposed to Channel One, argues that schools should not be another place where parents have to ‘safeguard their children’ from influential messages (Captive Audience 3:56).


Why are the majority of parents comfortable with Channel One and other corporate advertising deals? According to a nationwide telephone survey conducted in 1996, most parents do not advocate against student exposure to advertising in school because they are unaware of it (Richards 160). 1,000 parents of Channel One students were asked how frequently they thought their children were exposed to advertising at school and results concluded a 47% majority thought occasionally and or almost never (see figure 4). This survey concludes that parental unawareness is high, which explains their lack of concern about the influence of Channel One (fox 13).

Parental Estimate On How Much Their Children Are Exposed To Advertising
Don't Know Almost Never, Occasionally 47% 50% 40% 30% Pe rce ntage 20% 10% 0% 1 Pare nt Re s pons e 20% 33% Of ten, Daily

Figure 4 Parental understanding of their child’s exposure to advertising [Kelly Foss]

The Future of U.S. Schools

As the U.S. government continues to cut educational funding, and schools continue to make deals with Channel One and other corporate advertisers, schools will be driven by private corporate interests in the future. The government holds the power to get rid of inschool advertising, although today, improved federal education funding does not seem 15

promising. The current Bush government continues to make significant education cuts. Last year, the U.S. senate passed 12.7 billion dollars in cuts to education funding, which has left thousands of schools slaving to corporations to fill this funding gap (Jackson, par. 3). If the government continues to make cuts and school boards continue to attain corporate funding, educational values will soon decline and corporate interests will rain supreme. What is at stake for the future of students? According to Molnar, students will no longer be shaped by educational values but be exploited by corporate interests. As government funding continues to decline, ‘the school’ is gradually becoming the new and final marketplace. In the near future, students will no longer learn how to become active citizens, but rather patrons of mass consumption.

Tuesday, September 27th /2007 Kelly L. Foss


Works Cited
Aidman, Amy. “Types of Advertising: Channel One.” ERIC Digest, Dec 1995 <>. Apple, Michael. “Selling Our Children: Channel One and the Politics of Education.” Capitalism and the Information Age: The Political Economy of the Global Communication Revolution. By McChesney, Ellen, and John Foster. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1998. 135-147. Bachen, Christine. “Channel One & the Education of American Youths.” The Annals Of The American Academy of Political and Social Science. By Jordan, and Kathleen Jamieson. Vol. 6 (May 1998): 132 – 145. Captive Audience: Advertising Invades The Classroom. Dir. Alvin Poussaint. DVD. The Media Education Foundation, 2003. Fox, Roy. “Kids and Commercials.” Harvesting Minds: How TV Commercials Control Kids. Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 1996. 1-15. Goldberg, Michael and Gorn. “Some unintended consequences of TV advertising to children.” 1978. Journal of Consumer Research, 5, 22-29. Greenberg, Bradley, and Jeffrey Brand. 1993. “Television News and Advertising in the Schools: The Channel One Controversy.” Journal of Communication 43(1): 143-51. Heath, and Andrew Potter. The Rebel Sell: Why The Culture Can’t Be Jammed. Toronto: Harper Perennial, 2004. 206-215. Jackson, Derrick. “Bush’s Education Gap.” The Boston Globe, 25 Jan 2006 <>.


Richards, Jeff I., et al. “The Growing Commercialization of Schools: Issues and Practices.” The Annals Of The American Academy of Political and Social Science. By Jordan, and Kathleen Jamieson. Vol. 6 (May 1998): 148 – 162. Stead, Deborah. “Corporations, Classrooms and Commercialism.” New York Times, 5 Jan 1997 < lth&pagewanted=print>. Textart Database. “Marketing and Advertising Slogans.” 22 Jan 2007. 2 April 2007 <>.


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