Major School Groups Blast Plan For Commercial TV in Classes

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Condemning it as educational "junk food," the National Association of Secondary School Principals last week expressed strong opposition to a satellite-delivered television news program aimed at high-school students.

The nassp board, meeting at the organization's annual convention in New Orleans, adopted a resolution opposing any commercial-advertising vehicle in the classroom "resulting in the forced attention of students or replacing instructional time."

This week, Whittle Communications of Knoxville, Tenn., was to begin a pilot test of "Channel One," a daily 12-minute newscast beamed via satellite to receivers and television sets in six test schools.

In exchange for receiving a satellite receiver, videocassette recorder, and television monitors from Whittle, the participating schools agree to carry two minutes of advertising during the news program. Whittle hopes to expand the program nationwide if the pilot test is successful.

But Scott D. Thomson, presi4dent of nassp, said allowing commercials to be broadcast to a captive audience of students "violates the public trust that we have to present balanced views of issues."

"We spend a lot of time as principals making sure that special-interest groups don't come through the front door," he said. "With Channel One, they are going to bring a special interest in through the back door."

The nassp board urged schools not to participate in "Channel One" or similar ventures.

Whittle executives have said the program will be a way for business to help provide resources to the schools and for students to become exposed to current events.

In a March 1 op-ed piece on the venture in The New York Times, Christopher Whittle, chairman of the company, warned that "critics should withhold judgment until they see the program and research results."

"Otherwise," he wrote, "they send a signal to business that bold experiments with the education community are unwelcome."

--mw

Vol. 08, Issue 24

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