Monday, August 31, 2009

Captive Audience

It seems a fitting topic as many schools open for the fall semester today.

I ran a story yesterday on Newswatch 16 Sunday Morning about a Tennessee school district selling advertising on its buses to make up for a revenue shortfall. The superintendent said they were going to be careful about the ads they accept. Presumably, you won't see ads for beer, condoms, or strip clubs on the sides of buses, and that's a good thing. It doesn't seem like a bad idea. There's a finite supply of money in the pockets of taxpayers.

The ads are on the outsides of the buses. No one is forcing the kids to look at them on their way to school.

That brings us to a discussion of Channel One. It came on the scene long, long after I graduated. It works like this. Channel One produces a 12 minute newscast to schools. It also provides the satellite system needed to receive it. Free. There's a catch. Channel One's newscast comes with two commercial minutes. I applaud anything that gets kids up to speed on what's going around them. You have no idea how many young people (and adults) are clueless in that category. On the other hand, Channel One gets a captive audience, and that's wrong. I've never seen it. I don't know how schools handle it, but if kids are forced to watch the commercials, there's a problem.

And, that reminds me of a story. I visited a medical group's office in Peckville several years ago. In the waiting area, there was a "television show" playing on a big monitor. It offered "medical news" and was paid for by a drug company. I knew that because I read about the national project in a newspaper. Presumably, the others in the waiting area thought they were watching legitimate, unbiased news, rather than a cleverly disguised drug company commercial. I'm sure the physicians group got a taste of the action for supplying the captive audience. I did a slow burn. First, I was upset I had to watch the drug company's propaganda. It was unavoidable. Secondly, the doctor kept me waiting a long time. I walked out, never went back, and complained to my insurance company. My current doctor keeps a supply of ancient magazines in his waiting area, and it's heaven by comparison.

Face it. Advertising pays the freight for just about everything, and it helps put food on my table and clothes on my back. However, we all have our limits.