May 8th, 2008

Show Could be Over for Bus Radio on Seminole County School Buses

By Dave Weber
Orlando Sentinel

SANFORD - So much for canned music on Seminole County school buses.

A committee of parents and school officials that has monitored the experiment with Bus Radio—a daily program of prerecorded music and ads piped into buses—recommended Wednesday that the School Board pull the plug when classes end in June.

Committee members said concerns about songs the kids were hearing outweighed the soothing benefits of music for the ride.

“Bus Radio couldn’t agree they wouldn’t play songs from albums that had parental advisory warnings on them, and that was pretty much a deal-breaker,” said Amy Lockhart, a Sanford parent who served on the committee.

While the School Board will make the final decision May 27, it’s expected to go along with the committee’s recommendation.

If judged a success, the radio show would have been expanded to all of the district’s fleet of about 400 buses next school year.

The experiment with music on 53 county buses has been controversial since its start last fall. Criticism centered on kids being captive audiences for ads and sometimes suggestive songs, which the committee had struggled to weed out.

“Bus Radio needs to be more savvy to meet the needs of a conservative school district like Seminole,” said Ken Lewis, director of transportation for county schools.

Drivers will be allowed to tune in regular radio channels next year, but Lewis said they will have to choose carefully to avoid offensive songs and chatter.

When local officials were approached by the Massachusetts-based Bus Radio last year, they quickly agreed to its offer of free programming through special radios in exchange for an audience that is ready made for its sponsors who target the youth market.

But the district stepped into a nationwide controversy over Bus Radio and its mix of music and ads. Critics range from the national PTA to the pro-family Eagle Forum and the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

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