Youth Group Seeks To Rid Schools of Commercial Messages

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A new grassroots youth organization has formed to work to rid schools of such commercial intrusions as the daily Channel One classroom television show.

The organization, Unplug, is a loose coalition of national and local groups that share the goal, its organizers say, of reducing students' exposure to commercial messages in schools. In addition to Channel One, they cite such other examples as a new high school lunchroom radio network and the wide range of corporate-sponsored curriculum materials.

"We are seeing students around the country organizing on their own'' against commercialism, said Marianne Manilove, the co-director of Unplug. "It tells me something bigger is going on out there.''

Unplug formed about four months ago and is preparing to release, on Oct. 12, a report about commercialism in the schools that will include an examination of the number of schools that carry Channel One.

Whittle Communications says the news show is carried in about 12,000 junior and senior high schools nationwide, a figure that some critics dispute as inflated.

Ms. Manilove said Unplug will not seek to establish chapters or enlist individual members, but instead will work with other groups.

'Coalition' Approach

"We are not asking people to join through memberships,'' she said. "We are a coalition group. My data base is about 5,000 groups.''

She said the organization--which plans to establish offices in Oakland, Calif., and Washington--will be funded by donations from individuals and foundations. The group will probably concentrate its efforts on a few states or cities at a time, she added.

"In some states, we will go school to school,'' Ms. Manilove said. "For example, there is resistance building [to Channel One] in the Boston area, so we will make an effort to get trained people there. We don't want students joining Unplug, we want them joining their own local groups.''

William L. Rukeyser, a California education department official who is a vocal critic of Channel One, said the new organization should bring greater attention to students' views about the news program.

"I think it was inevitiable that groups of students would be active in opposing it,'' he said.

Jim Ritts, the chief spokesman for Channel One, said he had not heard of Unplug. While there have been a few student protests against the program, he said, most viewers overwhelmingly approve of Channel One.

"What I would be most interested in is talking with a group like this to make sure they are knowledgeable about Channel One,'' he said. "By and large, [students] say it is one of the more interesting parts of the school day.''

Vol. 13, Issue 05

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