US Schools Broadcasts Under Fire over Ads

21 September 2006

PORTLAND, Oregon: US anti-commercialism campaigners have launched a broadside against specialized ad-supported TV and radio shows being beamed at captive audiences - namely schoolchildren.

Commercial Alert, whose mission is "to keep the commercial culture within its proper sphere, and to prevent it from exploiting children and subverting the higher values of family . . . ", is calling for an end to Channel One in-school broadcasts and BusRadio on school transportation.

The organization, backed by a number of children's advocacy groups, has sent letters to 100 leading national advertisers and the top fifty ad agencies urging them not to advertise with the two companies.

Washington DC-headquartered Channel One, owned by Primedia, provides schools across the country with TV equipment. In return it broadcasts daily 12-minute news geared to secondary schoolchildren, which includes two minutes of ads.

It claims to reach seven million kids in the US at 11,000 educational establishments.

Massachusetts-based BusRadio, heard on the distinctive yellow buses that ferry millions of students each day, includes eight minutes of advertising every hour. The company says it provides age-appropriate content and safety features such as a panic button for bus drivers.

Commercial Alert's letter to advertisers and agencies says: "We believe it is wrong for a company to use compulsory-school-attendance laws to force a captive audience of children to listen to advertising."

It goes on: "As most practitioners in the field recognize, successful advertising depends on the willing participation of both advertiser and consumer. BusRadio and Channel One violate this fundamental principle."

The broadcasters have defended their output.

Avers BusRadio president Steven Shulman: "What we're doing is very socially responsible. We're providing a service that is age-appropriate and a better alternative to what kids are listening to today, with safety features that are unheard of."

While Channel One's president-ceo says the broadcaster "stands among more than 300,000 educators as a valued source of unbiased news and current events".

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff