Discovery Cable Channel Plans Documentary Programs for School Use
The Discovery Channel, a cable-television network available to 41.3 million subscribers nationwide, will launch an hour-long daily documentary program in September for educators to tape and use in the classroom.
The network's announcement last week marks the latest in a series of efforts by media companies to provide television programming for school classrooms.
Whittle Communications of Knoxville, Tenn., tested a satellite-delivered news program for schools this year at six pilot sites and is expected to decide this summer whether to make the program available to schools nationally.
Last month, Turner Broadcasting System of Atlanta announced plans for its own 15-minute, advertising-free news show for high-school students, which can be taped daily by educators off Turner's Cable News Network, beginning in August.
Also, the Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network, or c-span, has announced plans to broadcast weekly "short subjects" on such topics as the role of the Speaker of the House or the workings of the Supreme Court.
The c-span programs, to run no longer than 25 minutes each, will be broadcast at a set time beginning the week of Aug. 21. Educators will be granted the rights to tape the segments off the air for use indefinitely, according to a network spokesman.
Officials of The Discovery Channel, based in Landover, Md., stressed that their program, "Assignment: Discovery," would not be a news show competing with the Whittle or Turner efforts. Instead, it will offer a repackaging of documentaries shown on the cable channel in segments that can be related to the curriculum.
The program is scheduled to debut Sept. 18. It will include two 20- to 25-minute segments each weekday at 9 A.M. Eastern Standard Time in five broad categories: science and tech8nology, social science, natural science, arts and humanities, and world events.
Teachers may tape the program and use it at any time in the classroom over the next year. The network will provide programming information in its monthly magazine and will offer a package of support materials for $100 per year per school.
The program segments will not contain advertising, although Discovery will seek sponsors for the advertising time surrounding the segments when the show is broadcast on the cable channel. Educators would be under no obligation to show the sponsored messages to students.
Whittle's "Channel One" news program has drawn heavy fire from education groups for its plans to advertise products to an essentially captive classroom audience.
The new cable program drew the endorsment last week of the American Association of School Administrators, the National School Boards Association, and the National Association of Secondary School Principals.
Gary Marx, assistant executive director of the aasa, said the "Assignment: Discovery" series would be welcomed by teachers because of the one-year copyright clearance, which would permit them to show segments when they fit into the curriculum. Educators are currently limited by the federal copyright law on the length of time they have to show programs taped off the air.
In a related development last week, CareerVision Inc., of New York City, announced plans to publish a new magazine aimed at high4school students.
The magazine, BCV (for Before Career Vision) will appear twice during the next school year and will be distributed to 1,250 private high schools. Publication frequency will increase in the next school year.
CareerVision recently launched CV, a magazine for college campuses offering articles on career opportunities and other subjects of interest to the college age group.
The high-school magazine's first cover story, a spokesman for the publisher said, will examine "the truth about college admissions."
BCV will offer a heavy dose of information on colleges and financial aid, as well as articles on fashion, travel, and summer employment, the spokesman said. It will carry advertising and will be distributed free to schools.
With its new venture, CareerVision is entering a field dominated by Scholastic Inc., which publishes 32 classroom magazines for all ages.
The circulation for Scholastic's five high-school magazines that carry advertising is 2.1 million, said company officials.