Cable Network Says Student-Oriented Daily News Show Won’t Include Ads

By Mark Walsh — May 03, 1989 3 min read

Many cable companies already are required by their franchise agreements to provide free service to local schools.

Ted Turner, chairman of the Turner Broadcasting System Inc. and founder of CNN, said at a press conference here that the program would be broadcast on the cable channel at 3:45 A.M. each weekday beginning Aug. 14. Schools would use their own video equipment to record it for showing to students during the day.

“There will be no advertising whatsoever,” he vowed.

Mr. Turner stressed that the program, tentatively named “CNN Newsroom,” was not inspired by Whittle Communication’s “Channel One.” Instead, he said, it evolved from the weekly current-events service for schools operated by the network in conjunction with the National School Boards Association.

Whittle recently completed a seven-week test of its news program at six high schools across the country. The company provided satellite dishes, video recorders, and classroom television monitors to the schools, which in return made the 12-minute program mandatory viewing for students. (See Education Week, March 15, 1989.)

Whittle’s current plans call for offering such equipment to thousands of the nation’s high schools and middle schools by the fall of 1990. To cover production and equipment costs, “Channel One” would carry two minutes of paid commercials each day.

Commercials Ruled Out

Whittle’s project has prompted a nationwide debate over the propriety of allowing advertising to be shown to a captive classroom audience. It has also raised questions about the availability of video equipment in the schools and the place of current events in the curriculum.

Mr. Turner said he originally planned to fund “CNN Newsroom” by selling two minutes of each program for “underwriting messages.” No product advertising would have been allowed, he said. Instead, sponsors would have presented informational messages that contributed to the instructional purpose of the telecast.

After meeting with educators, however, Mr. Turner decided to drop all advertising from the program. Organizations of principals, school administrators, and teachers have strongly opposed “Channel One” because it includes commercials.

“It is going to cost us millions of dollars, but we’re just going to absorb the cost of it, as we do in furnishing CNN to the third world,” he said.

Mr. Turner said that the new program would include a seven-minute summary of the day’s news, followed by a special report on any one of a wide range of topics, such as international affairs, business developments, or science.

The nsba joined with Turner in announcing the new program, which grew out of the two-year-old “News Access” project. That initiative allows educators to record CNN’s weekly review of events for use in schools, and provides study guides prepared by the network.

“We are convinced that this program will fill a definite need in our schools,” said James R. Oglesby, the nsba’s president.

Equipment Not Included

Christopher Whittle, chairman of the firm that bears his name, issued a statement wishing CNN and the cable industry “luck in its endeavor.” He emphasized, however, that his project “provides all the components necessary to deliver news and information progamming to students.”

Mr. Turner, on the other hand, made clear that he has no plans to offer video equipment to schools.

“That’s up to the schools and the cable systems,” he said. “We’re just making the program available for free for those who want to use it.”

But several cable-television proel10lviders at the press conference promised to make cable programming available for free to schools and to provide needy schools with limited amounts of free equipment.

“We are prepared to continue offering free hook-ups and free programming to those schools that can be economically served by cable but are not yet wired,” said J.C. Sparkman, an executive with Tele-Communications Inc., a major cable operator.

He said severely disadvantaged schools in his company’s franchise areas could apply to the company for a donation of a video recorder and a television monitor.

Many cable companies already are required by their franchise agreements to provide free service to local schools.