OBJECTIVES. Channel One is a public-affairs program that includes 10 minutes of news and 2 minutes of paid product advertising or public service announcements. Advocates assert that it increases public-affairs knowledge, but critics charge that it garners a captive audience for teen-targeted advertising. This experiment analyzed the differential effects of Channel One depending on whether early-adolescent viewers received a media-literacy lesson in conjunction with viewing the program. Outcomes included perceptions of Channel One news programming, recall of program content and advertising, materialism, and political efficacy.
METHODS. Researchers used a posttest-only field experiment (N = 240) of seventh- and eighth-grade students using random assignment to conditions. Conditions included a control group, a group that received a fact-based lesson, and a group that received the same lesson content using a more emotive teaching style. It was expected that the emotion-added lesson condition would be more effective than the logic-only lesson condition because of its motivational component.
RESULTS. On average, students remembered more ads from Channel One than news stories. Participants in the control group remembered fewer news stories than did the groups that received the lessons. Students reported having purchased during the preceding 3 months an average of 2.5 items advertised on the program. Both fact-based and affect-added training increased student skepticism toward advertisers. As expected, student liking of the program enhanced their learning from it and was associated with higher levels of political efficacy. Students held misconceptions about the role of their school in the production of Channel One.
CONCLUSIONS. The use of Channel One by schools can have benefits, but these come with risk that some may consider unacceptable. On the positive side, student liking of the program was associated with their political efficacy. Although those who responded positively to program content and presentation style learned more from it, they also tended to want things that they saw in the advertisements. The data therefore show that the program can provide some benefits to young adolescents, but the results also provide justification for concerns about the commercialization of the classroom.