On October 19, 25 experts and public health organizations called on the producers of Channel One News, a commercial network shown in school classrooms, to update their advertising policies to stop advertising unhealthy food and beverages to children. Channel One’s 10-minute broadcasts include two minutes of ads and are viewed daily by millions of middle and high school students. Signatories to the letter to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, which owns Channel One, include the American Heart Association, the UConn Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), among others.
The advocates say Channel One’s “Advertising Policies and Guidelines” don’t abide by regulations adopted by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2016, which prohibit the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to students in schools. Channel One’s vague guidelines exclude marketing for certain “full fat” junk foods and “full sugar” sodas, but they permit ads for products high enough in fat, salt, or sugar to be considered unhealthy and not within the USDA’s “Smart Snacks” nutrition standards.
“Children should not be fed junk food ads as part of their daily lessons,” said CCFC’s Executive Director Josh Golin. “We call on Channel One to immediately update their outdated guidelines.”
“Channel One should stop marketing junk food in schools, which undermines the progress schools are making to provide healthy meals, snacks, and drinks,” said Colin Schwartz, Senior Nutrition Policy Associate at CSPI. “It doesn’t make sense to promote junk food in schools that can’t be sold in schools.”
The advocates also called on Channel One to publicly post who advertises on the broadcasts so that schools showing the network can easily discern whether they are violating USDA rules. Currently, the only way for school officials or parents to identify Channel One’s advertisers is to watch every broadcast.
“The lack of transparency on the part of Channel One, the only network in the country that uses tax-payer funded class time to show commercials to a captive audience of students, is extremely concerning,” said CCFC’s Golin.