July 8th, 2006

Tune Out; School Bus Radio Advertising Is a Bad Idea

Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette

Wachusett Regional School District should take its cue from Shrewsbury and reverse its decision to allow an outside company to bombard students with advertising as they ride buses to and from school every day.

Needham-based Bus Radio broadcasts a mixed bag of music, news, service announcements and contests, but the real purpose of the “service” is the eight minutes of youth-targeted commercials broadcast every hour. Aren’t youngsters assaulted by commercial messages enough outside school without being forced to endure them on the bus as well?

If there is a legitimate educational rationale for subjecting students to the manipulations of the marketing and advertising industries, we fail to see it. Of course, the rationale for schools is not educational but financial. The Shrewsbury School Committee, which wisely rejected Bus Radio, anticipated receiving $7,000 to $12,000 in ad revenue.

The company claims the programming helps students behave better as they ride to and from school, adding that its content is more appropriate for school-age youngsters than the AM and FM radio programs they might be listening to.

Please.

Bus Radio is neither entertainment nor a disciplinary tool. It is a marketing ploy aimed at a vulnerable, captive audience.

Shrewsbury was wise to reject it. Worcester, which is considering signing on with the service, should do the same.

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