High school broadcast-journalism programs have a new potential source of funding—if they agree to air commercials in the middle of their student-run, in-school television newscasts.
Two former high school broadcast-news directors started in February Scholastic Media Funding LLC, a Sacramento, Calif.-based company that plans to act as a middleman between advertisers and schools. The company will gather and distribute commercial reels to schools via its Web site, www.scholasticmediafunding.com.
Ten public high schools in Arizona and Texas are in the process of signing one-year contracts to use the service this fall, said Alex Feher, 19, the president and chief executive officer of the company. A Virginia school district has also expressed interest, he said.
Like the Channel One network, which airs 12-minute newscasts in schools, SMF offers schools incentives to run two minutes of commercials.
But while New York City-based Channel One gives schools TVs and other technology in exchange for student attention, Mr. Feher’s new company will give schools 35 percent of the profits they generate from airing the commercials, he said.
He also said the company plans to donate 5 percent of revenues to a scholarship fund for student broadcasters, offer a professional-mentor network, and promote a competition in which students create commercials for advertisers. The students with the best commercial, Mr. Feher said, would receive rewards such as scholarships and equipment.
“The number-one problem for school broadcasting programs is funding,” said Mr. Feher, who worked briefly as a senior writer for the Sacramento CBS affiliate before starting SMF. His business partner, Zachary G. Melchiori, the chief financial officer of SMF, was also a high school classmate.
Mr. Feher estimates that a 2,000-student high school that runs a television newscast three times a week would reap about $8,000 annually.
But anti-commercialism advocate Jim Metrock, the president of Obligation Inc., a watchdog group based in Birmingham, Ala., sees SMF the same way he sees Channel One—as a threat to schools.
“Schools are for education, not marketing,” he said. “They want you to sell your soul for 35 percent of ad revenue. That’s not a lot money, and bigger schools don’t need it.”