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Thursday, March 13, 2008

BusRadio tuned in

By Brian McCready
Milford Bureau Chief
— The school system has contracted with a private company that broadcasts commercial music radio on school buses, raising concerns among some Board of Education members who said the board was not consulted.
Deputy Superintendent of Operations Philip G. Russell told school board members late Monday the Massachusetts-based firm BusRadio was brought in to help keep students calm while riding the bus.
Russell said Milford has had a “number of school bus incidents,” prompting him to contact BusRadio officials.
The BusRadio broadcasts began after February vacation. The broadcasts are on all buses, from kindergarten through high school. The broadcasts feature commercial advertising targeted to young people.
According to the BusRadio Web site, one hour of broadcasting features 52 minutes of music, four minutes of public service announcements and safety messages and four minutes of commercials.
Russell said a sampling of bus drivers said “kids are much more well behaved.”
“After one week, the overwhelming response was (students) just thought it was phenomenal,” Russell said. “The students loved it. The calmest kids are the ones with iPods in their ears, and this is like having an iPod in their ears,” Russell added.
BusRadio was temporarily pulled from one bus that transports high school students to a New Haven magnet school for the arts after a complaint was filed. But Russell said several students complained that the radio was turned off, and it was restored Tuesday.
BusRadio reports that it serves 1 million students in 23 states. Critics claim the company is exploiting young people for commercial gain.
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a nonprofit advocacy group, claims BusRadio “undermines parental authority.”
“Parents who wish to shield their children from commercial messages will be unable to do so if their school district signs up for BusRadio,” the group states. “BusRadio undermines education. Products advertised on a school bus carry the school’s implicit endorsement. The products advertised may run counter to lessons a school might want to teach.”
Russell told board members that the installation of the radios did not cost the district anything, since BusRadio earns revenue from its advertisers.
Russell said there is a national content committee reviewing songs that are appropriate for each grade level. Russell is a member of the content committee. Durham School Services, the bus company hired by the school system, praised BusRadio.
Milford General Manager Neal Martino said there is a unique 911 feature. If a bus breaks down, a driver can hit two buttons and emergency service vehicles will be dispatched. A GPS tracker can pinpoint the location of the bus in case the driver cannot speak.
Board member James Santa Barbara, D-5, said “nobody gets something for free.”
Martino said there are some ads for milk, but said no ads for anything like video games.
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, however, claims there are ads for Bratz doll DVDs; the Web site, which provides “homework assistance,”; Cingular cell phones; and the WB television network.
School board member Pamela Staneski, R-5, said some parents objected several years ago when the board talked about putting display ads on school buses.
Russell said administrators decided the potential revenue wasn’t worth it because the students could mark up the ads and cause a nuisance.
School board members Tracy Casey, D-2, Santa Barbara, and Cindy Kopazna, R-3, said they felt the board should have discussed BusRadio before it was installed on the buses.
“I wish we had discussed this before BusRadio was turned on,” Santa Barbara said. “Now that it’s on, it’s harder for us to decide whether to turn it off.”
Russell said the administration felt it was a safety issue and not a content issue, which is what led them to act. “We’re not trying to usurp any authority on all this,” he said.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This article reads like a press release. Is it?

March 17, 2008 at 3:09 PM 
Anonymous Mark L. - Parent said...

It sounds like it. I have no real issue with music on the bus if it makes the ride calmer on the way home, but the "advertising" is what concerns me. Right now they are saying the ads are for "Got Milk" and "Just Say No To Drug", but this company BusRadio is a big company with inventors they will demand a good return on this money so I imagine the ads will be expanded over time, sort of like an Anethstetic drip by drip until you are under. Then the nice ads will be pushed to second place after ads for Coke, Skittles, etc. Just think MONEY and you can follow the path from there. Again, the music is nice, but this company will exploit the fact that they have access to the largest consumer group with disposable income in the country . . . KIDS! This program needs to be montored carefullly. Perhaps parents should be able to gain a list of advertisers on a continual basis and not just the feel-good ads, but ALL ads.

March 18, 2008 at 9:21 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lynn - tax payer
Lynn - tax payer
I am appalled that we need music on our buses to keep the students calm and the drivers safe. Where are you parents? Don't you teach you children how to behave. I suggest we give each student a prozac and ipod with their daily lessons - should keep them calm and they can learn via memorization

March 18, 2008 at 1:03 PM 
Anonymous mark l - parent said...

Dear Lynn,

Agree that children should not need s radio to behave. My kid's did just fine without a radio as they know if a report comes home about poor bus behavior then it is curtains for them . . . and they know it. Keep in ind that these radios are "free" fromBusRadio. Now free sounds good and they use this a a good way to open the door. But their goal is to gain access to the ears and minds of our children. "Just plug in kiddies and enjoy the soothing music (buy coke), hear the rythm (buy twinkies), relax (drink milk), feel your stress melt away (shop at the GAP) . . . . .

March 22, 2008 at 8:11 AM 

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