A new study by WSU researchers Erica Weintraub Austin and Bruce Pinkleton found that in-school public affairs programming, which contains news and advertising or public service announcements, can provide some benefits to young adolescents. But the study also found justification for concerns-including those voiced by the American Academy of Pediatrics- about the commercialization of the classroom.

The in-depth report, “Benefits and Costs of Channel One in a Middle School Setting and the Role of Media-Literacy Training,” appears in the March issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the AAP.

Channel One is a public-affairs program shown to middle, junior and senior high school students nationwide. The daily program includes 10 minutes of news and two minutes of paid product advertising.

“The use of Channel One by schools can have benefits, but these come with risk that some may consider unacceptable,” said Austin. “As the program is designed and generally used in the schools, students remember ads more than news stories.”

The study, designed and executed by graduate students in Austin’s health communication seminar, focused on 240 middle school students in Pullman, Wash. The findings indicated that media literacy education did increase student receptivity to the news programming while reducing their receptivity to program advertising. Students also recalled more ads but reported more skepticism toward advertisers.

“Readers of this study should not expect media literacy training to eliminate advertising effects entirely,” said Pinkleton.

On the positive side, students who liked the program and presentation style generally felt that they could make a difference through civic involvement. Nonetheless, the same students also tended to want things they saw in the advertisements and tended to remember a greater number of ads than news stories. The data therefore show that the program can provide some benefits to young adolescents, but the results also provide justification for AAP concerns about the commercialization of the classroom.

“These results suggest that schools wishing to use commercial programming such as Channel One need to include in-service training for teachers on media literacy education and should require that media literacy be taught with specific reference to the programming,” said Austin.

“Whether or not schools should use commercial programs such as Channel One remains a question of ethics regarding the tradeoffs, which empirical data such as these cannot resolve,” Pinkleton said.

For more information, visit the AAP web site, http://www.pediatrics.org/, or the Channel One web site, http://www.channelone.com/.