Students Say No to Classroom Commercials


| November/December 2000


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'Advertisers figure that because we're young, we'll buy anything they want to sell us,' Lindsay Porter says. 'But when it came to putting TVs in our school, they were wrong.'

In January Porter was in her final year at Meadowvale Secondary School in Mississauga, Ontario, when school officials agreed to allow the Canadian commercial television network YNN to install televisions and VCRs in classrooms. Similar to Channel One in the United States, YNN airs daily 12-minute broadcasts of world news mixed with approximately two minutes of product commercials in public schools across Canada. As a reward for making students take their daily dose of YNN, schools receive free broadcast equipment.

When they heard about their school's partnership with YNN, Porter and several of her classmates formed an opposition group called Students Against YNN Organization, or SAYNO. They held meetings, organized discussions, and planned a walkout timed to coincide with the daily YNN broadcast.

'We always thought of school as a sanctuary against commercialism, then here comes YNN,' recalls Porter, now a student at Carleton University in Ottawa. 'We were supposed to go, 'TV! We love TV!' But we didn't do that, and that was a surprise to them.'

It's not clear that all credit goes to the SAYNO campaign, but by the day of the students' planned walkout, YNN had dropped all commercials from its programming and announced that public service announcements would air in those spots instead. Porter is happy about the decision, but she admits to a healthy dose of skepticism: 'They'll probably get corporations to sponsor the public service announcements,' she says. 'It's just another way of making an ad.'