Friday, February 22, 2013

Roy Fox Harvesting Minds, Channel One Indoctrination of Kids

Channel One was established in 1989 and launched nationwide in 1990; it was founded by Chris Whittle. This offered schools free use of equipment on the condition that they play their programs daily. This was welcomed by many schools that were starved for funds after the cuts of the Reagan Bush administrations. It was also supported heavily by many Reagan and Bush supporters that supported these cuts. Roy fox did a two year research project into the results of this from 1993-5 and published “Harvesting Minds” in 1996; it overwhelmingly indicates that Channel One is essentially a propaganda program that is devastating the education system where it thrives and it is leading to a lack of critical thinking on the part of the students that attend unless there is an effort to educate them about the effects of the ads after the fact. Several other researchers have done additional research into marketing to children since then that confirms many aspects of Fox’s project but, as far as I have known none of them have focused as much directly on Channel One. Perhaps if a follow up study hasn’t been done yet one will be soon; there certainly should be one; however even without that there is ample evidence to indicate that this should be severely reduced and if possible stopped completely as soon as possible.

Before writing this blog I decided to do a relatively quick check of the internet to find some additional, perhaps more recent, information about Channel One. I took a look at the Web site for Channel One, at the top was a banner for “today’s show” that is constantly changing so that you only get a glance at each article before it changes. If you take the time to click on them before they change there was one for Fed-up consumers planning for 'Bank Transfer Day' and another for Homeless Teens. these seem fairly good at first glance but I’m skeptical, as implied due to the information that I have read about it in the past. When attempting to watch the show I found that I couldn’t do so unless I created an account. I didn’t do so at this time. One of the conditions involves the protection of copy written material and other intellectual property; which essentially means they’re trying to maintain control over the educational material they provide to children. Many more credible and sincere educators might prefer to enter their educational material into the public domain or use open source material which allows much easier access to peer review and improvements on the educational materials; however Channel One is a for profit company and apparently the profits obtained by controlling educational material may be more important than educating the children in the most effective way possible. The material that is available without the use of an account is very limited as indicated in the links provided; and my best guess is that they’re more interested in using this to give children the impression that they’re concerned about these subjects than actually acting on them. If they were interested in acting on them they would almost certainly do it much more effectively. Also the bank transfer day protests is a cause being pushed primarily by the Occupy Wall Street movement which was initially organized with the help of Ad busters who are opposed to traditional advertising themselves although they do use similar tactics, at times, to counter ads and I doubt very much that Channel One would want to draw more attention to them than they have to even if it is indirect, since they didn’t provide a link. It is more likely that this story was just so big they couldn’t ignore it and it will be quickly forgotten on Channel One; in fact by the time I finish writing this blog and posting it they will have a different show.

They also had an article about Paying for college which also seems very helpful at first glance. This article discusses the fact that college costs have gone up 8% this year even at public schools and discusses ways to save money and pay for them. It says absolutely nothing about why they have been rising so fast and whether they should be rising so fast at all at a time that they should be dropping due to the availability of educational material that can be replicated at low cost with new computer technology. One of the biggest reasons why an enormous amount of educational material hasn’t been made available at a much lower cost with the help of computer technology is because of draconian Intellectual property laws that enable those that own the rights to educational material to control the distribution of it. It costs much more to restrict access to this educational material now than it does to let it be exchanged freely; therefore instead of allowing costs to be reduced by technological advantages they continue to rise at dramatic rates primarily for the benefit of those that control the education system and their profits. Channel One has indicated with its words and actions that they’re in favor of the use of this instead of finding different more efficient ways of funding research and educational material. After all they’re a ‘for profit’ corporation and that takes priority over education of the children. This article clearly seems to be a puff piece designed to present a benevolent image of Channel One, which is consistent with the result of the research that was done by Roy Fox.

A more reliable source for information might be a Commercial Alert page about Channel One. They provide many more credible stories about the work that Channel One does in a manner that involves less hype. This includes an article about how Channel One promotes tobacco to kids in a subtle way that many may not initially recognize and an article about Jack Abramoff’s Work for Channel One. This is just one of the many sources available that have done research into the negative effects of advertising to children; a list of additional resources is provided at the end of this blog post.

Roy Fox’s study involved in depth discussions with children at schools that had Channel One designed to study the way they perceived commercials and Channel One; this was primarily done to research the way they felt about it not to teach them to scrutinize commercials better although there may have been some of that after the fact for all I know. Some aspects of the cooperation or lack of cooperation from Channel One weren’t mentioned in his book others were and they often involved withholding of information. He didn’t say whether or not he had to agree not to educate the children about the impact of advertisements in order to get permission for conducting the study or whether or not there was any resistance to it. There was some indication in his book that on at least one occasion Chris Whittle banned people from including research that would be critical of Channel One in a research project that he sponsored but there was presumably only so much that he could do when a more sincere researcher does work with funding beyond his control and he certainly shouldn’t have had the opportunity to prevent this type of research and didn’t judging by the fact that this book came out. The following excerpts provide a relatively brief idea of the work that Roy Fox provided although it may be rather long for a blog; however I think it is a worthwhile subject and hope that either you read this or at least check on the sources, mostly from more established academics, provided below to develop a good idea of how this impacts children.

I think it’s stupid. I don’t know why athletes do that-pay all that money for all them ignorant commercials for themselves. Guess it makes everyone like ‘em more and like their team more. Doesn't Emmitt Smith have a bunch of commercials that's makin' everybody like his team better?....

After talking with Debbie and other students, I realized that they usually did not consider commercials to be messages aimed at selling something. Instead they viewed Nike commercials solely as advertisements for the athletes-perks that athletes pay for themselves to bolster their own egos and their teams reputation. Few kids mentioned that a product was being sold or that the athletes wanted to earn money for themselves. (Roy Fox “Harvesting Minds” 1996 p.1-2)

Roy Fox opens with what many people including myself might consider a hard to believe claim that kids could be this stupid; however many of us were raised in a culture that didn’t have nearly as much saturation of advertisements that now start from the first couple of years that they were born. These children may not have been raised with Teletubbies which didn’t air until shortly after this study was done but they were almost certainly raised with much more commercials than most older people were and when Channel One was provided in the schools they may not have developed the critical thinking skills before they became inundated with ads which would explain why they might not be so capable of figuring out who pays for these ads and why. This apparently surprised Roy Fox as much as it did me and it should be enough to indicate that the excessive advertising to children is causing a serious problem. This wasn’t a problem that was limited to just one child although there were many that were much better at recognizing the purposes of the ads. Additional follow up study into what their taught at home and if they’re raised in a strict disciplinarian manner may help understand why some children might have been more susceptible to advertising to others. Other research clearly indicates that children who are taught to obey and believe what they’re told from authority figures develop less critical thinking skills.

At the end of small-group sessions, I asked students, “Is there anything else about commercials that we haven’t talked about?” “Yes!” they enthused, “We need new commercials!” Their answer is not surprising if you place it within its rightful context: operant conditioning. Anybody who watches so many commercials, every day for nine months, with some ads repeated endlessly, develops a craving for new commercials, a desire for more. Especially young people.

Channel One’s commercials employ classic propaganda techniques such as repetition, testimonials, bandwagon appeals, transfers of one quality or element to another, and highly synthesized music and imagery. We’ve long known that such propaganda is most effective in closed environments, where outside stimuli can’t interfere with the intended messages. And class rooms of captive students make up the perfect controlled environment: no external noise or outside distractions interfere with the flood of commercials, which star-the students tell me-“kids just like us.” But advertisers don’t call this propaganda. Instead they camouflage it in techno-market-speak, such as “brand and product loyalties through class room-centered, peer-powered lifestyle patterning.” …..

In exchange for Channel One, 90 percent of a school’s students must watch Channel One for 92 percent of the on-air time (schools must supply Channel One with attendance records); each program must be watched in its entirety; shows cannot be interrupted; and teachers do not have the right to turn the program off. (Roy Fox “Harvesting Minds” 1996 p.5-7)

Once again the fact that so many children would like commercials so much as to think of them as entertaining is stunning to many of us. But this is what propaganda does when it is inundated from a very young age before children learn to think for themselves. The purpose of Channel One clearly isn’t to educate children in the most effective way possible, although many people that have been taught to accept this may not recognize it, but to serve the purposes of the people who create the programming in the most effective way possible.

The Flames of educational crisis were fanned by Whittle’s friends and insiders, some of whom cashed in on Channel One. They include Chester Finn Jr. and Lamar Alexander (former secretary of education), who led the National Commission on Excellence in Education when it released A Nation at Risk: The Imperative for Educational Reform (Kozol 1992)….. And Whittle and Alexander had close connections: “Alexander, a friend of Whittle’s for some twenty years, initially served on Whittle’s board and also worked as a consultant to, and held stock in, his corporation-a relationship from which he profited financially. (Having bought four Whittle Communications shares in 1988 for $19,000, Alexander and his wife sold them back to Whittle for $330,000 five months later)” (Kozol 1992, 274). (Roy Fox “Harvesting Minds” 1996 p.10)

The fact that Lamar Alexander is involved in this is a clear indication of how they got away with implementing this and it is typical of the way many corrupt politicians operate. Alexander was clearly profiting from his political connections and this should be a strong indication of the fact that the corporations that back political candidates and control the campaign process are intertwined with the creation of this corporate propaganda. This implies that the political community may recognize that schools have an important role in either educating children so that they can participate in democracy or indoctrinating them so that they’re less able to do so. Further research by Roy Fox, Susan Linn and others has indicated that excessive advertising to children over the last several decades has contributed to a drop in the ability and willingness of to participate in the democratic process (more on this before the end of the blog).

One day, we watched a commercial that aired for the first time on Channel One. This thirty-second ad featured the athlete David Robinson. Throughout that day, most of the kids told me that this commercial’s structure consisted of “three parts,” which they recalled in the correct sequence: (1) Robinson goes to college and earns his master’s degree; (2) Robinson becomes a naval officer; and (3) he goes to the Olympics (twice) before becoming a professional ball player. (Right after watching it I remembered none of these things!) (Roy Fox “Harvesting Minds” 1996 p.33-4)

This advertising is being presented to these children during their peak educational years; the thought process that is going into remembering the trivial details about these commercial clearly must be distracting them from the thought process that they should be going through to learn more important subjects that they’re supposed to be studying. This has been happening at a time when the educational abilities have been dropping in America and I don’t see how it could be possible that this isn’t a major contributing factor to this drop. No doubt that the incredible dumbing down of the TV shows like Married with Children and Beavis and Butthead, that have been presented to children on TV at home is also a major contributing factor. The lower quality programing on TV has been controlled by some of the same corporations that have been promoting Channel One or advertising on it.

When I asked Andy what he thought the difference was between a program and a commercial, he replied, “Commercials don’t have as much time to get their message across. Programs are really long.” Andy’s distinction, that simple length of time separated commercial from noncommercial television content, was shared by most of the kids I interviewed. Few students stated that the main difference between commercials and programs was one of intent or purpose-that commercials are made to sell products. Kids know that commercials sell products and services; but when asked how programs and commercials differ, they never mentioned selling products. This failure to link commercials with sales reflects other findings of the study, such as when students used the phrases “regular program” and “talk show” to describe commercials. I showed one of Pepsi’s “It’s Like This” commercials to a college freshman who had never seen Channel One. This student, an English major who is also highly skilled in analyzing media, defined the ad as a combination of a commercial and a “preview” for a regular television program, such as “Friends.” This student even guessed that some footage of the commercial had been excerpted from the actual program being previewed. Overall, the kids in this study did not regard commercials as fundamentally different from other forms of television. (Roy Fox “Harvesting Minds” 1996 p.55-6)

Public service messages were appearing on network television and Channel One long before Pepsi’s series of documentary look-alike ads, with their use of black-and-white, grainy-looking film, rough-cut editing, and overlapping voices. In imitating PSA’s, Pepsi capitalized on a positive, respected, ready-made framework through which students could interpret the new ads. For example, one student said, “The hidden message in the Pepsi commercial is ‘Stop the Hate.’” And the exact phrase used in a popular PSA is “Stop the Hate.”

Blurring is nothing new to Channel One. Others have documented Channel One’s previous attempts to merge the “neutral” content of news and features with commercials…. Immediately following the program was a Sprint commercial, showing viewers how the network’s “points of light” helped to end Soviet communism. Interestingly, the Channel One contract addresses this issue of blurring: “ADVERTISING/PROGRAMMING DISTINCTION. Any creative technique that may confuse the viewer by blurring the distinction between programs and commercials is unacceptable” (Whittle n.d., 12).

As you can see from students’ comments throughout this section, the blurring of commercials and noncommercials helps kids view Pepsico, Inc. as caring-as deeply committed to helping them cope with their emotional and psychological problems. Most Kids felt quite strongly about Pepsi’s altruistic intention:

Beth: I think Pepsi is trying to appeal to what we’re going through right now.

RF: do you think that commercial was trying to sell something?

Ellen: the main message is kind of like sponsored by them-but they’re trying to appeal to the things we’re going through right now.

Paige: Yeah-Pepsi understands what we’re going through.

Beth: Yeah, and on the side, they might be trying to sell Pepsi.

All: [Simultaneously] Yeah.

Beth: They’re not saying, “Drink Pepsi and you won’t be racist.”

RF: How does all of this make you feel about Pepsi?

Beth It’s good that they’re trying to help us with our problems.

Pepsi has succeeded in what most advertisers try to do-establish positive and even warm feelings about the product. One student told me, “They’re not trying to hit you over the head and make you do something.” However, not surprisingly, Pepsi was the product mentioned most frequently in survey questions that asked students to identify specific products. Also, students can buy Pepsi in most Channel One schools.

The types of responses examined in this chapter provide the foundation for how kids evaluate commercials. As we shall see, kids judge commercials in both critical and uncritical ways-though mostly uncritically. In turn, how students evaluate commercials helps determine how ads shape the kids’ subsequent behaviors. These topics are explored in the chapters ahead. (Roy Fox “Harvesting Minds” 1996 p.58-9)

There is little indication that many of these children understand the motivation behind commercials; or if they do understand it they only acknowledge it briefly without allowing themselves to scrutinize them. Allowing a feel good commercial to give children the impression that they’re benevolent is any advertisers or propagandists dream. These children don’t seem to understand the basic principle that these advertisement cost a lot of money and in order to retrieve their investment they have to get the money back and the way they do that is by selling their products at a high enough margin to pay for the advertising and add to the profits to boot. Any child that develops critical thinking skills would understand that the primary motive for these ads is because they think they will increase profit.

Heather: Let me start with commercials I don't like, especially commercials with animals, like ads for pet food--that cat food and talking parrot commercial. It's like the cats actually understand and listen to a bird telling them not to eat it! I mean--it's natural habitat! Just the fact that the bird talks gets on my nerves. And he has an accent that doesn't even sound right!

RF: Why don't you like that?

Heather: 'Cause it's not what animals do. It's not real life.

RF: Do you think the makers of this commercial know that it's not like real life?

Heather: Yeah, but it's just stupid--just downright stupid and idiotic, like that Energizer Bunny commercial, which shows the bunny fighting Darth Vader and then the batteries in his laser go out, but the bunny's laser is still goin'.

RF: And this one is stupid, too?

Heather: Yes! Because you know they change the batteries in the rabbit! They have to change the battery! I have never found an Energizer battery that has run that long in my entire life, and I’ve bought lots of these batteries.

RF: Why do you buy Energizer batteries?

Heather: ‘Cause they last longer than everything else.

Most kids seemed to interpret intended, unreal events in commercials as adults do-with bemused acceptance of camera tricks. However, some reported that such events were impossible or unreal, articulating a na├»ve criticism, as Heather, a senior, does here. She concluded that no batteries can run as long as they do on the commercials. Although she accepts this ad as exaggerating how long a battery can last, her criticism does not affect her consumer behavior. (Roy Fox “Harvesting Minds” 1996 p.75)
The lack of critical thinking indicated by the fact that she believes these batteries last so much longer than other batteries despite the fact that she has to buy lots of these batteries indicates that she wouldn’t be very good at recognizing many other simple consumer decisions about their shopping or the gradual reduction in the quality of merchandise over the decades that is being caused by practices like planned obsolescence. In all fairness Roy Fox didn’t conduct an in depth test to find out how long the batteries lasted and whether or not she is getting her money’s worth but he recognized the fact that it wasn’t a given simply because they buy an ad that says so. As indicated in a commercial that was canceled when Edith Bunker tried out for the part because she was unwilling to lie for the sponsors commercials have absolutely no credibility. The effectiveness of commercials is based on their ability to distort the truth for the benefit of the advertisers but these children apparently aren’t taught to even try to recognize this and there are no shows left like All in the Family or I Love Lucy that would ever provide any hint of this anymore. Over the last few decades any good shows that might challenge corporate ideology have almost been completely eliminated.

Embracing Commercials

After talking with Debbie, the ninth grader quoted at the beginning of Chapter 1, about why she thought professional athletes made commercials, I realized that she did not consider ads commercials for products. Instead, Debbie (and many other kids, it turned out) viewed Nike commercials solely as advertisements for the athletes-which they pay for in order to bolster their own egos and their team’s reputation. Hardly ever did the kids say that athletes made commercials to make money. Instead of athletes endorsing products, these kids viewed products as endorsing the athletes.

The prior examples (and many more) formed a clear pattern of student response to commercials. Throughout this study, kids wholeheartedly embraced commercials. They enthusiastically accepted and assumed the most positive motives about commercials. As mentioned earlier, they seldom perceived a creator behind the commercials. Even when students did perceive a creator, they viewed the responsible party in very positive ways. Finally, when kids embraced commercials, they bypassed analysis entirely. They took positive stances from the start, as Amy does in describing an army recruitment commercial:

One commercial that really stands out in my mind is the one where the basketball player jumps into the air, and then all of a sudden, he sits there and says, “Since I’m going to be up here for a while, I think I’ll talk to you.” Then all of a sudden he’s in this green outfit. He wasn’t just so-and-so, the basketball player-he was also Colonel such-and-Such. This caught my eye because he wasn’t a basketball player trying to sell you something-he was encouraging you to learn! (Roy Fox “Harvesting Minds” 1996 p.79)

Ordinarily, harvesting the attention of an audience of potential consumers on a large enough scale to interest a major advertising sponsor involves considerable risk. With Channel One, that risk is virtually eliminated. The program’s sponsors know the size and demographic makeup of their audience with a level of certainty unmatched by practically any other form of advertising.

A large majority of the kids in this study expressed very positive feelings towards commercials. Many students’ affection for ads and advertisers can be described as a kind of blind love, where one sees no faults in another….. (Roy Fox “Harvesting Minds” 1996 p.81)

Once again they think of commercials as credible and they think that they’re benevolent. In fact additional parts of Roy Fox’s book indicates that commercials have become a major part of their social life; in addition to wanting “more commercials” they spend an enormous amount of time talking about them and some of them take pride in the fact that they can tell their family more about a new commercial when it comes out on regular TV because they saw it on Channel One. This is their way of fitting in and being popular; and considering the possibility that they might be detrimental to them is something they might consider insulting. In fact this is not uncommon; in many cases when people are told they have been scammed they blame the messenger and defend those that scammed them. Some of the biggest examples of this are smoking and Gambling; to admit that the propaganda and manipulation tactics used by the Smoking and Gambling industries worked would imply that they’re somehow stupid for falling for it so they respond with denial and blame the messenger. Yet an enormous amount of statistical evidence indicates that the advertising for smoking and gambling is incredibly effective and if you think if the rational reasons for choosing these activities without them it is hard to justify them rationally. Furthermore the reason the industries pay big money for these ads is because they think it will increase their profits so either they’re working or the industries are incredibly incompetent; and if it was the later there is no way they would stay in business.

Perhaps most important of all is the fact that when they agree to allow Channel One to control the situation they’re allowing them to call the shots; which means that the education of children takes a distant back seat to the goals of the corporations that support Channel One. This includes allowing them to be able to have influence over the education provided to the children that amounts to corporate ideology and it allows them to study the children and their responses to ads. The results of these studies and the purposes that they’re used for are often considered proprietary trade secrets; which of course means that there is no accountability for any potential misuses nor is there even any way of finding out if and when this might happen unless someone blows the whistle; and that person can be charged with a crime for disclosing proprietary information.

Because… The large type at the top of the ad labels the three panes of stained glass as “The Temple of Nike.” Just below that, the ad states, “Hours of Worship Mon-Sat 10-7 PM Thurs 10-8 PM Sun 11-6 PM.” (Roy Fox “Harvesting Minds” 1996 p.85)

The idea of a “Temple of Nike” could, and probably is, routinely dismissed as a joke; however if you take a close look at the tactics that they use to promote their products they often involve emotional responses and devotion to the brand without questioning the authenticity of the advertisement for it. They encourage brand loyalties without scrutiny. By dismissing it as a joke it makes it seem trivial but this involves many of the same characteristics as a religion that worships without question; which makes it too close to the truth.

Completing School Assignments 
"Last year we acted out commercials in Spanish class. We could either make up our own product and commercial, or just do one that’s already on TV....I think that all of us used commercials that we already knew about-things like dog food and Cheerios, and then we videotaped them, so they’d look even more like real commercials. I even brought my own dog to use in my Kibbles N’ Bits dog food commercial." Emily

Emily proudly remembers her Spanish class assignment. I’m sure that she learned Spanish in an active, purposeful, and engaging way. She may even have picked persuasive techniques of TV advertising. However, when advertising is not the course topic, teachers and students focus on what is-in this case Spanish. In these situations, neither teachers nor students have the time or the motivation to analyze an ad for its persuasive techniques. Hence, in addition to what Emily learned about Spanish, and in addition to what she may have learned about advertising along the way the assignment remains a replay of Kibbles N’ Bits commercial-in this case, a literal and physical re-enactment of the entire commercial for herself her teacher and the other students. Emily’s video-taping of her commercial deepened her memory and knowledge of this dog food brand. (She valued the look of real commercials enough to video-tape her ad in the first place.) Again, students chose to replay existing, professional commercials over creating a new message of their own. (Roy Fox “Harvesting Minds” 1996 p.104)

Clearly when class assignments involve teaching more about creating commercials than they do about the subject at hand this should raise some major issues about the priorities.

Replays of commercials occur in subtle, private ways when kids dream about them. Several students described dreams they have about Channel One’s commercials. Because I never dreamed that anyone would dream about commercials, for the first half of the study I did not even ask the question. Out of approximately 100 students, about 8 kids reported having dreamed about commercials. In these dreams, kids made commercials and starred in them. (Roy Fox “Harvesting Minds” 1996 p.118)

The fact that children spend so much time listening to commercials that it dominates their life enough to cause them to dream about them overwhelmingly indicates the success of the indoctrination of these children and the fact that it is taking a much higher priority than the education that they’re supposed to be going to school for. Intentionally or not the Channel One program has provided a clear and blatant research opportunity to study the most effective ways to conduct indoctrination; and it is succeeding overwhelmingly in many cases.

How do These Findings Relate to What Advertisers Want? 
First, advertisers’ most frequently cited reason for targeting kids is that kids spend lots of money-what market researchers refer to as “disposable income” (an interesting phrase, which treats money as trash to get rid of quickly). In 1992, “children ages 4-12 spent about $9 billion, and adolescents ages 12-19 spent $57 billion of their own money and $26 billion of their family’s money” (Bowen 1995, 1).

Second, in the advertising it’s common knowledge, that young adults have long been a difficult “target” for advertisers. The findings of this study agree that students in grades 6-12 are indeed hard to reach-outside of school-because they are pursuing the things that most typically interest adolescents: each other, sports, jobs, cars, family, church, clubs, scouts, band, homework,. The list is endless.

During my interviews most kids say they watched very little television outside of school. Therefore, in-school commercials have very little competition. Also, at home kids need only press the remote control’s mute button to block commercials-something they cannot do in school. Ironically, the school-traditionally the protected bastion of democracy- has become the most pure or controlled environment for studying the effects of propaganda.

Third, considerable research reveals that brand loyalty is established at an early age. For instance, a University of California study (Newsweek 1994a) reported that right when cigarette advertisers began targeting women (1967-1973), the number of twelve-year-old girls who smoked increased 112 percent. (Roy Fox “Harvesting Minds” 1996 p.144)

The description of what advertisers want overwhelmingly indicates that they’re more concerned with using children for the purposes of the corporations or virtual property thaqt should be trained or indoctrinated in the beliefs chosen by the corporations; however this is often not the version that is presented to many members of the public when they attempt to promote Channel One and overcome resistance. Instead they’re far more likely to provide one story for public relation purposes and another for the purposes of business which may often be considered proprietary information when ever possible; although in many cases they have been using the same principles of marketing for decades and they’ve been taught openly in classrooms to they often can’t keep it completely secret. When this happens they may often try to avoid highlighting inconvenient facts or go into the spin mode.

Seventh, even though it is titled a "report,“ Channel One’s publication for school principals and superintendents, “Scheduling Channel One in Your School“ (Whittle Educational Network 1989), is actually a thick advertisement. It is full of splashy graphics promoting not only itself but also books penned by supporters of Channel One, such as Lamar Alexander, E.D. Hirsh, and Chester Finn. After making dire comparisons of America with Japan and Europe, this document concludes with an ominous, McCarthyesque warning: "Continued failure to address America’s educational problem could ultimately weaken the country’s security.“....

Because propagandists do not want competing or conflicting messages to counteract their own line (“noise”), they try to control intrusions. Control over students’ options is achieved in the following ways: (1) students are required by law to attend school and hence to view commercials; (2) students cannot turn off the TV, switch channels, or turn down or mute the broadcast; (2) students cannot leave or disrupt the room in which the broadcast occurs; (4) satellites receiving from Channel One can only pick up channel One signals: (5) students cannot control how or when the program is being broadcast (although they can record the broadcast to watch again!); and (6) students are not required to view any other competing or alternative broadcasts. Moreover, Whittle commissioned a three-year research project on the effectiveness of Channel One-but he banned researchers from evaluating the effects of advertising on the students; and published summaries of the research reports employ boxed information and other techniques to intensify Channel One’s successes. Barry (1994) offers a detailed critique of research investigations into Channel One, especially those paid for by Whittle. (Roy Fox “Harvesting Minds” 1996 p.160-1)

Ironically the claim that, "Continued failure to address America’s educational problem could ultimately weaken the country’s security,“ could be accurate; however, if anything, they have done the opposite of solving the problems of our education system and done more to threaten our nations security than they have to protect it. A poor education system could leave a nation susceptible to civil unrest and a education system that is more concerned with teaching children to accept the ideology of the leaders of society without question could encourage them to submit to the wrong authority for the wrong reasons. Historically the most extreme example of indoctrinating children to blindly obey orders is, of course, Hitler’s Germany. What they’re doing isn’t nearly that serious since, as indicated in other blogs or sources that have studied child psychology they haven’t involved the excessive amount of child abuse and strict disciplinarian up bringing that was present in Germany during the first half of the century. However with modern technology and the ability to wage war with little or no consequences for the people in the USA it has clearly already led to increasing amounts of warfare with inadequate participation from a large segment of society that doesn’t have the critical thinking skills to sort through the propaganda that has been fed to them through the traditional Mass Media for the past ten years. We are now at war without end and not only are many people in this country are still not questioning the legitimacy of it but they’re actively supporting in even when there is overwhelming amount of evidence to indicate that these wars are being fought based on lies and the US government isn’t fighting around the world to protect freedom and democracy but to protect the best interest of the corporations around the world.

The control that Whittle has over the research isn’t what should be acceptable in any sincere academic research project. The idea that those that finance the research should be allowed to restrict the research into any areas that might challenge the best interest of the corporations should raise serious questions. This will essentially mean that the research will inevitably be tainted and they will be making their decision based on lies; in many cases when this happens if the people running the research start believing their own lies they will inevitably run into major problems and they will be unable to recognize the source of them. In this case we are already winding up with a society that has been converting into a extreme consumer culture that worships ads more than they do the products that they’re supposed to be promoting.

The cost of marketing has gone through the roof while manufacturing expenses have been cut to the bone which inevitably leads to an incredible volume of merchandise that has little or no value. This has become so obvious that anyone that is old enough to remember the quality of merchandise thirty years ago and compare it to merchandise today will clearly know that our ability to provide basic necessities has been gradually been disappearing.

A Coffee maker that lasted longer than most people could remember (perhaps over ten years) thirty years ago can be expected to break down in a year or two now; a pair of sneakers that typically might have lasted two years thirty years ago might fall apart in four months now; and children that are raised with constant commercial indoctrination don’t seem to be able to recognize this. In fact the shoddy merchandise that we were told about in the USSR that was controlled by the government bureaucracy is now being provided in the USA today by the corporate bureaucracy with the help of the government passing regulations that protect proprietary information when necessary and eliminating consumer protection.

This means that all this rhetoric about eliminating regulation doesn’t mean all regulation just those that interfere with the profits of the corporations to protect the consumer and or worker not those that are designed to protect the corporations at the expense of the workers or consumers. When they claim they’re protecting us from “Communist propaganda,” as they often do, they often mean that they’re just trying to impose their own propaganda. If they truly were protecting us from propaganda they would allow all ideas to be considered equally and reject them on their merits so that they could weed out all the flaws of the Communists, Socialist, Capitalist or any other ideology without weeding out the good aspects of any given ideology; this might result in creating a new ideology that works better than the past rigid ones that have been used in the past.

It has now been fifteen years since Roy Fox has originally published his findings; this has been followed up with several additional research projects into the effects of marketing to children; however most of these, that I know of haven’t focused on the results of the marketing in schools through Channel One. Some of these are listed below; but in most cases when they write about Channel One they rely on Roy Fox’s work as their source. Many of these researchers have provided an enormous amount of work to corroborate Roy Fox’s work and expanded on it in other areas away from Channel One but a follow up study would be helpful to see how the children that were raised with Channel One have done since then. Some of the researchers that have followed up on marketing to children have commented on a few examples that almost certainly imply the negative impact that has happened due to this marketing but it isn’t as good as a more comprehensive study could be. I suspect there must be some people within the research community that realize this and may be planning on following up on this. This could involve many aspects of study including finding out whether or not the students from Channel One schools are more likely to support the War on Terror without question; the protest movements including both the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street; whether they’re more inclined to graduate from college, this is unlikely since they tend to be from poorer schools in the first place so sorting out other contributing factors will be necessary; whether they’re more likely to vote or be familiar with many aspects necessary to participate in a democratic process and many other things. The current establishment may not want such a research project to be done because we already have enough information to clearly indicate that the results will not look good for their favored project but this research should be done anyway.

In fact if the supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement including Adbusters realize how important this is they could try to adopt the additional research into this and the elimination of ads from schools as part of their demands from the government and the corporations. This doesn’t mean that they will all agree on it especially if many of them aren’t informed about it but they could initiate the discussion and I suspect that once a growing number of people understand the importance of this then they will be much more likely to support it. Once they realize that the indoctrination of children is helping the corporations produce the resistance to the Occupy Wall Street movement, or at least the complacency that is often portrayed as resistance, they may realize how important this is to maintain long term equality for all not just the 1 %.

Some additional research has already turned up to indicate how negative TV is to children including some that is marketed to children; this includes a study on “Second-hand television exposure linked to eating disorders” by Harvard Medical School; this has also been reported in the “Studies Say Turn Off Baby Einstein, Sesame Street Under Age 2” and Time magazine “'Educational TV' for Babies? It Doesn't Exist Time.”

Ironically the way this was pointed out to me also raises some questions about the programming of the Mass Media. I first heard about this on Morning Joe on or about October 19 of last month. This was shown during the segment of their show where they took a brief look at the morning headlines of the papers on the first hour of that day. I wasn’t expecting anything worthwhile to come up but when I heard about this I thought I might want to check on it. Unfortunately I didn’t catch the name of the newspaper that they were citing; however since I knew that they just played the same hour of TV three time in a row that I could just catch it the nest hour if I was still tuned in and since I didn’t have to be anywhere on that day I made a point to do so.

It turned out that they don’t quite play the same exact hour three times in a row. This articles wasn’t cited on either of the next two hours. Which means that they’re only repeating the same things that they want too over and over again and their not letting the public know that they’re not playing the same thing over and over again. This may seem trivial and in most cases it is; however this is the way propaganda works. The things that they consider the most important they repeat over and over again the things that they want to downplay they go over briefly if they feel they have to provide any coverage at all and hope that it goes unnoticed. Most people probably don’t even know that they may be doing this; if not for the fact that I took notice of this article and wanted to check on it I never would have known. There is very little effort from the Mass Media to information the public about this tactic and many others that they use on a regular basis.

You might wonder why they reported it at all; perhaps it is because they were under pressure from media watch dog groups and they did this to appease them so that they could claim that they reported it. Regardless of why they reported it this is just one of many reports that re available in the academic world that the majority of the public has little or no knowledge of. The fact that TV is bad for children is not new; there were similar reports about the Teletubbies over ten years ago in fact this may have been part of the reason why they were finally pulled from the air. While the Mass Media was paying attention to the controversial and silly remarks from Jerry Fallwell more credible academic sources were reporting that exposure to TV in the crib had detrimental effects which the Mass Media virtually ignored or only mentioned it briefly. It doesn’t take an in depth study to know that when a parent is watching TV all the time instead of teaching the child or when the parent relies on the TV to teach the child while the parent watches his/her own shows it will have a negative affect on the child but the study surly will help understand just how much of an impact. Regardless of what these studies say we should already have enough information to know that we should eliminate marketing to children and stop using them as psychological guinea pigs for the benefit of the marketing industry.

For additional information on the subject see the following links, many of which are from Roy Fox or other researchers into the subject:

“Manipulated Kids: Teens Tell How Ads Influence Them” by Roy F. Fox
“Blurring Commercials with other types of programming” at Stay Free magazine
Channel One Whittles Away at Education PDF
“Why They Whine: How Corporations Prey on Our Children” by Gary Ruskin
for more links and excerpts from Susan Linn’s book “Consuming Kids” click here (This is to the external links just scroll up for the excerpts) 

To read a follow up on Roy Fox see Roy F Fox on unethical targeting of children by marketers or author tag "marketing to kids."

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