Government Rewards Channel One for Anti-Drug Content

| August 15, 2001

Government Rewards Channel One for Anti-Drug Content

The already controversial Channel One, which telecasts news and commercials in thousands of American schools, now faces scrutiny for accepting ad credits for news and editorial programs approved by the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP).

At the core of this controversy is the fact that the ONDCP, a law enforcement branch of the U.S. Government, has a publicly stated policy that it will not give ad credits for news or editorial programs, which would in essence be buying the content of the news. But, Daniel Forbes, in an article written for Salon magazine and posted on the Media Awareness Project, reveals that Channel One submitted programs of news and editorial content to the ONDCP and was rewarded with ad credits amounting to millions of taxpayer's dollars.

While sending anti drug messages to students is rarely considered a bad idea, the issue at hand is not the message being sent, but the motivation and powers behind that message. The ONDCP is free to give ad credits for programs with anti-drug messages, but these programs should not be those whose job it is to report fairly and accurately, in spite of financial or governmental pressure.

While on the surface the ONDCP's ad credit program is designed to educate students, its implications speak of a more dubious motive. Indeed, Cornelia Pechmann, 'a marketing expert who was hired by the ONDCP to evaluate whether stories or segments were sufficiently 'on message' to receive ad credits,' also admits to having screened shows by 'NBC, Fox, CBS, The Family Channel, WB, Arts & Entertainment, Lifetime, and the E! Network.'

Clearly, the federal government is tainting the content of the arts under the guise of an anti drug campaign.
--Al Paulson
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