October 11th, 2007

Pull the Plug

By Editorial
Orlando Sentinel

Our position: Seminole's school buses should be delivering students, not radio advertising.

Talk about hitting a sour note.

The Seminole County School Board’s granting a company exclusive rights to broadcast its radio program—and advertising—to captive students on the district’s buses is just plain wrong.

Children are bombarded with enough advertising without having it assault their ears on a school bus, where the messages would seem to carry the school district’s seal of approval and there is no way to escape the ads.

Superintendent Bill Vogel is calling this an experiment, and the district is signing just a 30-day contract. That ought to be more than enough time for him to pull the plug.

Certainly there are arguments in favor of programming offered by Bus Radio, the Massachusetts company that has been selling its wares all over the country. Bus drivers say the music helps them maintain order because it keeps students entertained. And the music on Bus Radio is scrubbed clean and age appropriate—tough to find on local stations these days.

But to get all that, the district has to allow Bus Radio at least seven minutes an hour of advertising for companies it has guaranteed to deliver targeted messages to a captive audience. That’s a lot different than other advertising—such as signs on sports stadiums or ads in the school paper—because those ads reach broader audiences and allow parents more control over the messages. That’s partly why Orange and Volusia counties rejected this idea.

If music is really needed to soothe the savage student, the district ought to record its own—commercial-free.

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