October 24th, 2007

Second school bus driver raises concerns over radio

By Erika Gonzalez
Rocky Mountain News

A second school bus driver has come forward with concerns about Bus Radio, the new music programming service being adopted by local school districts.

Driver Les Lilly said the way the service was installed caused intercom failures and other malfunctions on buses in the Douglas County School District in August. The district has installed Bus Radio on 186 of its 277 buses.

“The PA systems weren’t working right, and that’s the most vital tool you have as a driver,” Lilly said.

District spokeswoman Whei Wong acknowledged that some initial software issues made it difficult to get the service installed and operational. But any problems with intercoms on the buses have been fixed, she said.

“Thus far, we’ve had a positive response to Bus Radio,” she said.

Earlier, Dan Kenny, a driver for Littleton Public Schools, publicly complained about what he called objectionable songs. His complaint led school officials to form a committee to review the content.

Bus Radio President Steve Shulman said the company has received only a handful of complaints from the 10,000 drivers nationwide who listen to programming.

“If it’s not going to work out in a district, we will know about that in the first month or two, and that’s never happened in the two years we’ve been programming and sending programs to the buses,” Shulman said.

The company does not require districts to play its programming on its equipment, he said.

Wong said drivers in Douglas County can switch to a list of regular AM/FM stations approved by the district.

Shulman added that the company’s play lists are available upon request to districts or parents. The company also is working on streaming its programming on its Web site.

In addition to free music programming, Bus Radio carries public service announcements, contests and commercials for such kid-centric offerings as the Cartoon Network.

Shulman said an internal panel made up of school superintendents, child psychologists and school administrators set criteria for the company’s content and advertising.

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