AOL TimeWarner has backed off plans to run paid sponsorships on its CNN classroom news show after being hit with a barrage of criticism from consumer groups, educators, and parents.
The show, CNN Student News, which is viewed in 18,000 schools across the country and seen by 4 million students worldwide, will remain commercial-free, said Brad Turell, the executive vice president of communications for TBS Inc., which oversees Turner Learning, the company’s education division. TBS is a subsidiary of AOL TimeWarner.
“To put Turner Learning at the center of controversy would be a disservice to its mission,” Mr. Turell said in a March 22 statement. (“CNN Student News Program to Air Paid Sponsorships,” Jan. 30, 2002.)
Mr. Turell added that the company won’t run advertising despite increased production costs for the program, which has been expanded from 15 minutes to a half-hour.
Wait and See
Early last month, 52 opponents of commercialism in schools signed letters sent to the top 50 advertising agencies in the country, urging them not to advertise on CNN Student News.
Among them were consumer advocate Ralph Nader, conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, and Peggy O’Mara, the publisher of Mothering magazine.
Gary Ruskin, the executive director of Commercial Alert, a Portland, Ore.-based advocacy group, helped lead the effort. He said last week that he was pleased with AOL Time Warner’s response, but was still taking a wait-and-see attitude.
“This is a big media company in the middle of an advertising recession. They’re looking to squeeze every nickel out of every property they have,” Mr. Ruskin said. “They backed off, but it’s unclear whether they’ve permanently backed off.”
A version of this article appeared in the April 03, 2002 edition of Education Week as CNN Student News Show To Remain Commercial-Free