AMHERST, Mass. -- A study released Tuesday shows Channel One, which offers television news mixed with commercials to junior and senior high schools, is disproportionately shown in high poverty districts.
Based on a study of more than 17,300 public schools across the nation, University of Massachusetts-Amherst Professor Michael Morgan concluded that schools with the fewest resources are the ones where students are being exposed most to Channel One.
'All this suggests that the Channel One program and its commercials take the place of more proven educational resources in the country's most impoverished schools,' Morgan said.
He said the program provided by the Whittle Communications service 'is not used to complement but to replace texts and other instructional material when these resources are most lacking.'
Whittle offers schools a free 10-minute daily newscast with two minutes of commercials. It also supplies schools with televisions, VCRs, and a satellite dish. Some 12,000 schools are currently showing the program to about 8 million 13- to 18-year-olds.
Jim Ritts, president of network affairs for Whittle Communications of Knoxville, Tenn., said the study was a 'classical example of cultural elitism.'
Morgan said that schools with the greatest concentrations of low- income students are more than twice as likely as schools with the wealthiest students to have Channel One.
He said Channel One is 'especially pervasive in the schools that spend the absolute least on texts.'
Morgan noted a recent Department of Education report points to increasing divisions in society between the haves and have-nots based on income and race.
'By giving people the illusion that it is providing resources, the Whittle program may actually be widening the gap,' Morgan said.
'That's an absurd notion,' said Ritts. 'What Channel One represents is a viable option or an innovative solution to equalizing the playing field.'
Ritts said that it is widely recognized that television educational materials can broaden educational opportunities.
'What it (Channel One) has done is significantly narrowed the gap' between the haves and have-nots, Ritts said.
'I find it amazing, fascinating that anybody would consider that a negative. Isn't it time someone was providing them (poorer districts) the same access that every (affluent) school has?'
Morgan said the study showed that when it comes to race, there was a 'general tendency' for schools with the greater precentage of African- American students to have Channel One.
He said more than 30 percent of schools in the South Atlantic, South Central and Mountain states receive Channel One, compared to about 10 percent or fewer of the schools in New England or Pacific region.
Morgan's study was sponsored by UNPLUG, a national organization working for commercial-free equal education. Among its supporters are education author Jonathan Kozol and Peggy Charren, founder of Action for Children's Television.