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Study of a school news show finds students recall the ads

Students remember more of the advertising than they do the news stories shown on Channel One, the daily public affairs program shown in 12,000 US schools, a study has found.
Students reported buying -- or having their parents buy -- teen-oriented products advertised on the show, including fast food and video games, researchers said.

Schools that agree to show Channel One on 90 percent of school days receive free televisions and satellite dishes, a deal critics say turns students into a captive audience for advertisers. Nearly 8 million students see the program, according to Channel One's parent company, Primedia.

''The benefits of having Channel One in schools seem to have some real costs that should create an ethical dilemma for schools," said study coauthor Erica Austin of Washington State University. The study appears today in the journal Pediatrics.

Channel One chief executive Judy Harris questioned whether the students' purchases were influenced exclusively by Channel One ads or by other advertising and the preferences of their peers.

''These children weren't in an isolation box," Harris said.

Advertising pays for Channel One's news, health, and fitness content, Harris said. Advertisers don't influence the news content, and the company has high standards that keep ads appropriate for students, she said.

The show won a Peabody Award for reporting on Sudan's civil war last year. The 12-minute daily broadcast has 10 minutes of news and two minutes of either ads or public service announcements.

Channel One produces some of its own news programming, but it also airs Associated Press Television News video. Associated Press news service stories appear on Channel One's website.

Researchers surveyed 240 seventh- and eighth-graders at a school in Washington state. The students reported that during the previous three months they bought an average of 2.5 products advertised on Channel One.

The students remembered, on average, 3.5 ads compared to 2.7 news stories. However, they didn't remember much about either, retaining only 13 percent of the news stories and 11 percent of the ads shown during one week.

The principal of a Chicago Catholic school said free TV equipment is the reason her school signed up for Channel One. The equipment also is used for a student-produced school news program.

''It's one of the tradeoffs," said Maria High School principal Sister Nancy Gannon. ''You have to have the commercials in order to have that equipment available."

Maria High student Angela Young, 16, said she doesn't pay much attention to Channel One, which airs every morning during homeroom.

''When Channel One is on, I do my homework or I talk with my friends," she said.


Associated Press, The Boston Globe. March 6, 2006

Copyright © 2006 Globe Newspaper Company. All rights reserved.