Can BusRadio deal; itís a marketing ploy


Nashua Telegraph

April 29, 2007

Nashua parents, if you think your kids arenít exposed to enough advertising every day, does the school board have a plan for you.

A Needham, Mass., company, BusRadio, is offering Nashua and other school districts around the country what appears to be a canít-miss opportunity: Free satellite radios for every school bus, musical content tailored to either tween or teen audiences, and a GPS tracking system, to boot.

The price? Free, including all equipment, installation costs and maintenance.

The payoff? Nashua could stand to reap $10,000 a year.

The catch? BusRadio gets a very captive and impressionable audience to target and exploit by broadcasting eight minutes of commercial messages an hour.

In plain terms, Nashua would be selling its students to national marketers in return for a $10,000 drop in an $82.7 million school budget bucket.

This is clearly a great business model for BusRadio, a no-risk opportunity for the school district, and a raw deal for students and parents.

According to Nashuaís director of transportation, David Rauseo, the BusRadio offer is in part a response to parent complaints about the local radio broadcasts already played on Nashuaís buses. Two stations have been banned largely because of the content of their raucous morning shows.

In contrast, BusRadio promises an age-appropriate, sanitized playlist and disc jockeys who will talk up safe topics of interest to kids. And, donít forget those commercials, produced and targeted directly at either 6- to 12-year-olds or 13- to 18-year-olds, depending on the channel.

Creeping commercialism in our schools is not a new thing. Channel One News, a short newscast with ads, is now played in 11,000 junior and high schools across the country. Many districts have explored other money-raising ventures, from selling naming rights to their football fields to putting advertising in student bathrooms.

The average American kid sees 40,000 TV commercials a year and probably hears a similar number on the radio. So, will eight minutes on the way to school and back make any difference? BusRadio is betting the farm on it, and is willing to give away the radios in return for those eight minutes.

If bad morning radio is a problem on our school buses, then simply turn the music off, permanently. Subjecting our students to predatory and needless marketing at the hands of their educational system is not the answer.