As I took my daughter to middle school this morning she was telling me how she and her friends avoid eating their brown bag lunches in the cafeteria because it’s impossible to carry on a conversation there. I assumed she was referring to rowdy kids, but instead she told me all conversation is drowned out by television sets blaring Channel One News.
For those not familiar with Channel One News, it’s a program for teens broadcast via satellite into middle schools and high schools across the United States. It’s been widely criticized for exposing a captive and underage audience to commercial content, including outright ads as well as corporate promotions and tie-ins. Before today, I had no idea that Channel One News was aired in our middle school and I was not thrilled to learn about it.
Then I got home from dropping off the kids and came across this Los Angeles Times report about how the McDonald’s fast food chain is rolling out a new, in-restaurant television channel. Working on the same principle as Channel One News — a captive audience is the best audience — the McDonald’s Channel is a
digital network of exclusive original content targeted at dine-in customers. The programming will be customized to specific communities around the individual restaurants, and will include local news and entertainment features, such as spotlights on upcoming films, albums and TV shows. . . .
The programming will be shown in a one-hour cycle consisting of installments or “pods” lasting 20 to 22 minutes. Each component will have several segments that include “The McDonald’s Achievers,” which will profile local high school and college athletes; “Mighty Moms,” a focus on local moms juggling home life with careers in sports such as coaching or training; “McDonald’s Channel Music News” about musical acts, tours and new releases; and Burnett’s “Vimby,” which will cover fashion, art, music, night life, lifestyle and culture news.
About eight minutes an hour will be devoted to advertising . . . . [and] there may be segments about McDonald’s centering on features of the food operation or about philanthropy efforts by Ronald McDonald House Charities.
So, just one more erosion of our ability to escape constant exposure to corporate marketing. And I do love this statement in the L.A. Times from Leland Edmondson, founder of ChannelPort, the company hired to produce the McDonald’s Channel:
This network is not intended to be all about McDonald’s. It is all about the consumer.
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