July 10th, 2006

Bus Radio Programs Should Take a Seat

The Republican (MA)

Here’s what BusRadio of Needham told school officials in Monson and Palmer when the company outlined its plan to pipe commercial radio broadcasts into school buses:

Students will be more likely to remain in their seats and they’ll be more willing to follow schools rules.

Now, here’s what the company told advertisers on its Website:

“Every morning and every afternoon on their way to and from school, kids across the country will be listening to the dynamic programming of BusRadio providing advertisers with a unique and effective way to reach the highly sought-after teen and tween market.”

This second pitch should raise a red flag, or perhaps in this case, bright red flashing lights indicating STOP. As the old saying goes, there’s no such thing as a free school lunch. You can bet that the radio spots won’t be commercials for reading, writing and arithmetic. It will be for products the kids don’t need.

Schoolchildren in Monson and Palmer will be among the first in Western Massachusetts to hear the commercial radio network this fall. Northampton school officials will consider the school bus broadcasts later this summer.

Commercial radio broadcasts on public school buses makes as much sense as making the wheels on the buses square.

BusRadio has been pitching its youth-friendly radio to school districts in Massachusetts over the past few months. Districts that sign contracts with the company get customed-designed radios for their school buses at no cost and a percentage of the advertising revenue. In return, marketers and advertisers get a young impressionable audience.

School buses should be commercial-free zones. When parents put their children on the school bus, it is not so they will be a captive audience to be exploited for commercial gain. Children are exposed to too much commercial advertising without adding to the load.

School officials in Mansfield recently pulled out of its contract with BusRadio after they heard from parents. Parents in Monson and Palmer should voice their concerns to school officials and urge them to cancel. Parents in Northampton should call their School Committee members.

As parents, your antennae should be picking up this signal. 

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