Bus Radio Advertises To School-Bound Kids

The school district that approved McDonald’s-sponsored report cards has a hot new partnership with Bus Radio, a friendly company that advertises to kids as they ride to school!

The company serves a sonorous mix of inoffensive music, public service announcements (buckle up, kids!) and a few harmless advertisements (maybe McDonald’s?) to over 1 million children in 23 states. Bus Radio is based in Needham, Massachusetts, but lost its contract with the Needham school district after uppity parents objected to the crass commercialization of something as innocent as a bus ride.

Seminole School Board members said the benefits of the radio show seem to outweigh any drawbacks, but they will evaluate Bus Radio’s performance during the test run.

“This is strictly a pilot. I am real concerned about it,” School Board member Dede Schaffner said.

Board member Diane Bauer said she wants to know more about the ads that will be on the show. Board member Sandy Robinson suggested a committee be set up to check out ads and songs before the trial run starts, and other board members agreed.

To help win support, Bus Radio has promised the district six minutes out of each broadcast hour for its own use. Officials plan short lessons to help students pass the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

The district also will get a share of the company’s advertising revenues, although that is expected to amount to only a few thousand dollars a year.

Seminole County, where education meets marketing!

Seminole schools agree to give Bus Radio a trial run, but PTA still wary [Commercial Alert]
Turn off Bus Radio [Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood] (Thanks to Jess!)

Comments

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  1. PenguinBlue says:

    “This is strictly a pilot. I am real concerned about it,” School Board member Dede Schaffner said.

    Sigh.

  2. AD8BC says:

    “To help win support, Bus Radio has promised the district six minutes out of each broadcast hour for its own use. Officials plan short lessons to help students pass the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.”

    Riiiggghhhhhtttt. My school bus rides were the best part of the school day. I made it an absolute point not to do any learning on the bus.

    Except for when I really needed to finish that homework on the bus ride to school. Because sometimes I made it a point not to do any learning during the time period that I was supposed to do homework, too.

  3. ptkdude says:

    Call me crazy, but back when I rode the bus to school we simply listened to the radio. But I guess Star94 Radio didn’t pay the school system to play it, so that was completely unacceptable!

  4. snoop-blog says:

    how low can you be to try to capitalize on a bus ride to school.

  5. Rob says:

    @snoop-blog: How poor is the school district?

  6. hypnotik_jello says:

    @PenguinBlue: it’s too bad they aren’t taking it seriously!

  7. brakemans says:

    “To help win support, Bus Radio has promised the district six minutes out of each broadcast hour for its own use. Officials plan short lessons to help students pass the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.”

    What makes the district think they can’t do this without the broadcast company’s help?

  8. MBZ321 says:

    How long before ads are shown on the TV’s in school…oh wait it’s been done already! What next? Will my child’s school desk have a giant Wal-Mart/McDonalds/Wachovia logo on it?

  9. RottNDude says:

    So much for peer interaction. Seems like kids these days always have to be jacked into something, whether it be a iPod or a rear-seat DVD system.

    Get off my lawn.

  10. stickystyle says:

    I wonder if this is a school district that also charges parents for their children to ride the school bus…

  11. Piquant1 says:

    Why is it that kids cannot not be kids anymore? Are the no safe havens from marketing for them?
    Our society does more to teach(seduce) children on how to be consumers, rather than responsible citizens.

  12. homerjay says:

    @RottNDude: What makes you think that kids are gonna just sit there stone-faced listening to the radio? The bus rides I’ve been on with my kids on their field trips were so loud that there was no way anyone was hearing anything on the radio. They probably won’t even know its there.

  13. Bryan Price says:

    I am so glad that my two youngest are finally getting out of this Floridian school system and graduating this year.

    My objection is that the schools have been spending enough time on FCAT, they’d really better get their crap together and actually teach.

    I’ve got two smart 17 yo’s who have given up and really don’t care about school because of the emphasis on FCAT, which in their case goes to classes that aren’t even involved in FCAT.

    So there’s 10 whole minutes out of an hour. Considering that I don’t think that there’s a bus ride over 15 minutes in my school district/county (for most, I know of exceptions — to the disciplinary school for example), and Seminole county probably isn’t that different from my county, what good is it?

    Considering it took them two months to get any kind of bus schedule that actually worked (driver picking up kids out of their route causing the bus to overload, getting lost and missing kids and trying to find their way back, late times of OVER 2 hours, etc.), I don’t see how Florida is doing any of the kids any good.

  14. Tracy Ham and Eggs says:

    @Piquant1: Im not sure what the problem is. When I was in school they just played the radio, I remember “Paradise City” playing every damn morning one year, and another year of rap. This seems like its basically disney radio with commercials, which regular radio has too.

  15. pylon83 says:

    I’m not sure I see any real problem with this. The unfortunate thing is the school has to resort to this for funding. I imagine that if they were properly funded in the first place, they would not have to get creative to generate cash. I guess in a way it’s better than having them listen to commercial radio, which would have advertisements and content that is perhaps inappropriate for school kids. I imagine that running a school has gotten exponentially more expensive in the last 20 years, with the need to buy, maintain, and upgrade computers, digital projectors, etc. and the funding in most districts hasn’t kept pace.

  16. youbastid says:

    Needham is my hometown. And not a poor town by any standards, but it was filled with old people, so whenever it was time for voters to decide between educational budget cuts and tax hikes, they always went for educational budget cuts. I believe in my last year of high school, they had cut phys ed down to half the year, and twice a week.

    Good for them though for not putting up with the in-bus advertising crap. This reminds me of Channel One (does that still exist anymore?) Except I’m pretty sure there was more educational programming on that than 6 minutes an hour.

  17. jamesdenver says:

    I wrote about this last December regarding a local driver who took Bus Radio on. Read the comments by the nutcase parents on my post.

    These parents are only concerned about themselves being painted in a bad light – rather than the fact that their children’s minds are be sold for profit.

    [www.futuregringo.com]

    Why on earth do districts allow this!

    also check out details at commercialfreechildhood.org

  18. Antediluvian says:

    This is really gonna piss off Otto.

  19. Antediluvian says:

    I argued against my local district implementing this. It never got past the trial balloon stage, thank goodness.

  20. Landru says:

    When my kid was little, I’d take him to the pediatrician pretty regularly – One of the drug companies gave the doctor a vcr tv for the waiting room, full of drug ads and “medical advice” shows recommending otc drugs. I complained and the next time we went it was gone.

  21. nardo218 says:

    @homerjay: The morning bus in jr and high school was dead silent, because we were all asleep. I’d still get stabby at anything playing ads at me when I’m trying to sleep.

  22. grapeshine says:

    Get real. It’s not like every school in America doesn’t have Coke and Pepsi vending machines or textbooks that have advertising in them. It’s not like these kids go home and watch commercial after commercial on network tv. Kids see/hear advertising 24/7. Selling advertising to give students things they actually need — textbooks, supplies, etc. — is never bad.

  23. jamesdenver says:

    @grapeshine:

    I disagree 100%. The amount of commercial and culture clutter should be decided on and regulated by the parents and the students.

    Regarding the Denver issue – a Bus Driver’s argument was that the lyrics are not appropriate for children. I noted that kids listen to music anyway, but that’s decided on by THEM and their PARENTS. NOT the school board.

    My concern is that there’s so differentiation between ads and content. Bus Radio sells blocks of content for TV shows, product, and other placement. The whole thing is one commercial.

    It’s no different than Channel 1 – which masquerades as “news” but is nothing more than promotions and fluff. During one semester in high school I had a teacher so incensed by this deal with the devil that he muted the sound during every Channel 1 ad. To this day I keep the remote control at hand, and without thinking I instinctively mute all commercials until my show comes back on. If I’m not actively watching a show on television I don’t keep the TV on as background noise.

    The more “clutter” you introduce the less likely it is for kids to be thinking independently. I’m not and expert – but I’d bet they’d agree with this basic premise.

    Listen to the Bus Radios sample and tell me if that’s not he most obnoxious dribble you’ve heard. Why should this replace students interacting and talking with each other?

    [www.futuregringo.com]

  24. caj11 says:

    @youbastid: Channel One’s website is still up so it appears they are operating. Chris Whittle, for-profit education mastermind is long gone from the company, however.

    @jamesdenver: I don’t quite agree with you about this being no different than Channel One. Radio is not the same as TV – when a radio is playing, you can move around and do other things. Granted that on a bus kids can’t exactly leave and/or turn it off, but no one really forces them to pay attention, and they can talk among their friends, etc. whereas Channel One (which I am totally against and was banned long ago in NY & CA schools) requires that the kids be sitting still watching and totally captive to the advertisements. When I rode the bus, we always had an FM radio station playing with plenty of commercials – how is this any different? Might as well make a few bucks for the school district. I read the attached articles and one of them addressed the issue of regular commercial radio playing vs. BusRadio and said the radio should be turned off entirely – that is just total crap. Riding the school bus is unpleasant enough, might as well make it a little bit tolerable with a little music. I know I appreciated it and don’t remember any one of the commericals I heard today.

  25. DallasDMD says:

    @caj11: Granted that on a bus kids can’t exactly leave and/or turn it off, but no one really forces them to pay attention, and they can talk among their friends, etc.

    Its distracting nonetheless. Children will consume at least some of what gets blasted out.

    When I rode the bus, we always had an FM radio station playing with plenty of commercials – how is this any different?

    Well, I’d say its worse because Bus Radio knows the kids are a captive audience who cannot turn off the radio and have to sit thru the whole trip listening. Most of what is on FM is definitely garbage nonetheless.

    Might as well make a few bucks for the school district

    As if money is the most important issue here.

    Riding the school bus is unpleasant enough, might as well make it a little bit tolerable with a little music

    I’d rather my kids consume wholesome entertainment, period. Passive entertainment is degrading.

  26. edrebber says:

    If Bus Radio will give 10 minutes every hour to broadcast students making farting noises with their hand under their armpit, then I don’t have a problem with this. Otherwise, pull the plug on bus radio.

  27. DamThatRiver says:

    When he was in the sixth grade, he had a bus driver who would play Paul Harvey every afternoon.

    That child grew up to be DamThatRiver.

  28. jonworld says:

    Why does the school board need to screen the commercials? A bus driver I had in middle school played uncensored rap music at full blast during our commute (ugh! I hate rap)…at one of the best school districts in the country.

    Funny…the buses at my high school don’t even have radios. Besides our friends, the only entertainment we have during our 20-minute commute through traffic is our crazy redneck bus driver yelling racist comments at “Mexican” bad drivers.

  29. caj11 says:

    @DallasDMD:

    Okay DallasDMD, you win. From now on hereon in, all public school buses across the country will have nothing but NPR stations playing on them. Wait! There’s going to be underwriting (i.e., “All Things Considered is brought to you by ______”). The kids won’t be safe! So degrading!

    So how exactly do you want to keep the public school bus rides a little more tolerable and under control, which, IMHO, were like prison yards in a much more enclosed space. Well, I suppose some buses are more peaceful than others.

  30. CurbRunner says:

    Nothing like broadcasting to a captive audience of kids who probably already have their ears plugged with ipod buds.
    How about some ads placed in front of the school’s bathroom urinals or in the stalls and plastered all over the outside of that school bus.
    Laminate the classroom desktops with ads too.

  31. throwmeaway says:

    Disgusting. Shame on us all.

  32. youbastid says:

    @CurbRunner: Why stop at desktops? There’s still blackboards, locker exterior/interiors, lunchtable surfaces, and floortiles to be had! ;)

  33. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    I am so glad that we teach kids how to pass these tests, because as anyone in the real world with a job knows, tests like these are how things actually get done!

    Our educational system sucks balls. The money president monkey butt has pissed away in Iraq would have built ALL NEW SCHOOLS FOR EVERY CHILD.

  34. ChimpWithACar says:

    I went to school in Seminole County, Florida for 3 years. The bus drivers already play music from the regular FM airwaves, so this proposal isn’t really a stretch.

    Reminds me of ChannelOne, a TV channel we were all forced to watch in a school district in Illinois. They buy off schools by giving away free TVs and equipment.

  35. shiwsup says:

    First, the headline could instead read “COMMECIAL RADIO ADVERTISES TO YOUR SCHOOL-BOUND KIDS.” Where is the outrage there?

    Second, if you want educational content, here is a company that makes educational rap music: Rhythm, Rhyme, Results

    Third, this is the most bizarre comment thread I’ve seen in a while.

    @DallasDMD: Did you ever actually ride a bus? All this talk about “captive audience” is beside the point: Bus Radio is a sanitized alternative to crappy FM stations that buses usually play. The music has been edited to be more appropriate for kids, including the removal of questionable slang that makes it to radio (sometimes entire verses); there is no inappropriate morning DJ banter; and the ads are often PSAs or announcements for things like public service organizations.

    If you want your kids to listen to something wholesome, Bus Radio is not your problem.

  36. caj11 says:

    @CurbRunner:

    Well, you sort of contradicted yourself on the issue of kids being a captive audience on the school bus, because if they can listen to their IPods, they’re not really a captive audience then are they?

    As for ads placed over urinals, on a school bus or on desktops, kids would be a captive audience to them and I would definitely disagree with that.

    But as a side note, my high school had a Pepsi, Coke AND a VeryFine juice machine. I saw them nearly every day, a captive audience to their bright logos, but I might have purchased something out of them twice during my four years. I hardly drink carbonated beverages today and I never see VeryFine beverages anywhere.