Parents Asked to Weigh in on Radio on
October 30, 2008
NASHUA – Before deciding on whether to enter into a
contract to install BusRadio on city school buses,
district administrators are asking parents to weigh in
on whether it is the right move.
The school district has been contemplating utilizing the
service on its buses since early 2007, when
administrators first brought the idea to the school
Based in Needham, Mass., BusRadio is a company that
installs its radios on school buses for free with the
promise of providing “age-appropriate music, original
programming, and public service messages.”
Its programming, which is differentiated for various age
groups, is heard by more than a million students in 24
states each day, according to the company’s Web site.
The programming is transmitted to buses wirelessly.
The service has drawn criticism from some child advocacy
groups that argue it subjects students to targeted
advertising. For each hour of BusRadio programming,
there is about four minutes of advertising.
Dave Rauseo, director of transportation for the
district, met with PTO presidents earlier this month,
asking them to gauge whether parents at their schools
think putting the service on school buses is a good
In September 2007, school board members voted to give
administrators authority to pursue a contract with the
company, but nothing was ever brought back to the board
for final approval.
The night of the vote, the school board held a public
hearing, but only one parent, who was opposed to
BusRadio, showed up.
“There hasn’t been a lot of feedback on the issue,”
Rauseo said earlier this month, adding he’s only
received about five e-mails from parents since the topic
first came up last year.
Rauseo said he asked parents last week to gather
feedback on get back to him by early November.
Rauseo and other district administrators have been
proponents of the service, saying it could help curb
behavior problems on buses. He brought up the idea last
year after he said he got complaints about the stations
being played on school buses.
Rauseo said he had to ban some stations last year
because of the complaints.
Shelley Fay, co-president of the PTO at Sunset Heights
Elementary School, said she is developing a survey for
parents at the school to take to get their thoughts.
Speaking as a parent and not for the PTO, Fay said she
didn’t have a problem with the service and said she
planned to go online to listen to the content first-hand
to get a better understanding.
“I think it’s something that could certainly be
utilized,” she said.
The system includes a panic button that can be used in
emergencies, a feature that Fay said appealed to her.
Jim Mealey, chief operating officer for the district,
recently presented the proposed contract with BusRadio
to the school board’s finance committee.
Mealey said the district was waiting to get feedback
from parents before moving forward.
One of BusRadio’s most vocal opponents is the
Boston-based Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.
Josh Golin, associate director of the organization, said
it forces students to listen to advertising.
“I think BusRadio is worse than commercial radio,” he
said. “Most of the advertising on commercial radio is of
absolutely no interest to children.”
Golin dismisses the idea that somehow having BusRadio is
going to help control kids. He suggested that bus
drivers simply turn off the radios.
Nashua would be the first district in New Hampshire to
use BusRadio, said Stephen Connolly, director of
national sales for BusRadio.
Connolly said that while BusRadio installs its own units
in each of the buses, drivers could still choose to
change to an AM/FM station or turn off the radio.
However, districts that don’t play BusRadio as often
will get smaller share of the revenue pool that is
funded by advertising, he said.
Connolly said the programming BusRadio provides is
screened to make sure it is age appropriate.
“It’s a better alternative than adult-oriented radio,”
For any parents concerned about content, Connolly said
they can hear on the Web exactly what was played on the
bus that day. The site is www.busradioparents.com.
Audio samples of BusRadio’s programming can be heard on
the company’s Web site, www.busradio.com.
The programming consists of songs that the company says
have been vetted by a board that listens for
inappropriate content. There is also banter between the
DJs, public service announcements and advertising.
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