Opposition to YNN widespread: union chief: Network wants to air educational programs and commercials in high school classrooms

The Sudbury Star Mon 20 Mar 2000
Rob O'Flanagan

The Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation is not the only group trying to< block Youth News Network from gaining access to secondary schools, Sandy Bass says.

Bass, the federation's local president, says 38 organizations, including the Council of< >Canadians and the Canadian and Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops, oppose the plan.

As well, Bass says, seven provinces have opposed the Montreal-based company's plan to air educational television programs in high schools. The daily, 12.5-minute programs contain two-and-a-half minutes of< advertisements.

YNN has received $500,000 in financing from Telescene Film Group, a television producer. >According to a Telescene prospectus, YNN< >expects to generate 80 per cent of its revenue from advertising, making the plan an >attractive investment for Telescene shareholders.

``Seven provinces have forbidden YNN; have absolutely said, No, to them,'' says Bass, >who is angry that YNN officials have singled out the teachers as the plan's principal >opponent.

Bass says the federation does not oppose introducing new technology to classrooms. And some level of corporate sponsorship in the education system can be a benefit.

But YNN, he says, is in the business of selling advertisements that target students -- a susceptible audience which controls about $5 billion in retail spending in >Ontario.

``Teaching is changing, and eventually we >will get to the point when you will be able, >as a parent, to check your child's marks out on the Internet. We are not against these types of changes. What we are against is YNN's method of delivering them.''

YNN is patterned on Channel One in the United States, says Bass. In its first year of< operation, Channel One sold $147 million worth of advertising.

``The classroom is the one place we've tried< >to keep sacred,'' Bass says. ``In an< educational environment, you are supposed to learn critical and creative thinking. How can

Corporations such as Nike, he says, will have some say in the nature of YNN programming.

``Nike is not going to allow them to put Third World-country issues, like childlabour, in a program sequence that they are going to run their billion-dollar adds on.''

Bass accuses Lively District Secondary School and the Rainbow District School Board of attempting to fast-track the YNN pilot project.

He says they have reneged on promises to hold public consultations on the issue.

One public meeting, held in January in Walden, was organized by teachers' federation, but included, says Bass, several non-federation presenters.

YNN and the school board declined an invitation to attend and make presentations, he says.

``Board officials told us in 1998 that the proposed pilot project was not going ahead.'' says Bass. ``And they said that if they did consider it in the future, they would notify us and there would be public consultation.

``The next thing we heard was on the agenda of a board meeting,'' when the school's principal recommended the board proceed with the YNN pilot project.

``We were alarmed,'' Bass says. ``We had an agreement with the board and they went back on it.''

Bass says YNN would already be in Lively classrooms if it were not for a regulation in the Education Act which says the only group that can authorize advertising in the school environment is the school board.

The Rainbow board must follow that regulation, and that will delay YNN's entry into Sudbury, Bass says.