tunes in to Bus Radio
By Michael Brindley
NASHUA – After hearing complaints from parents about
inappropriate content, school district officials are
looking for more control over what students hear on
Administrators are considering becoming the first New
Hampshire school district to contract with Bus Radio,
a Massachusetts-based company that plays age-specific
radio programming on buses, including commercials.
At Monday night’s school board meeting, Stephen
Connolly, director of national sales for Bus Radio,
gave a presentation about what his company would
offer, and what the changes for students would be.
Like satellite radio, a wireless transmission would be
sent to buses, playing age-focused content. Younger
students would hear commercials and music focused
toward their age group, and the same would go for
middle- and high-school students.
In addition to music, Connolly said there would be
eight minutes of commercials per hour, as well public
service announcements, trivia and contests.
All of the material is approved by Bus Radio’s content
review board, and songs that require any kind of
censoring for profanity don’t make the cut, said
Connolly. The district also has control over what
types of advertisements are heard, he said.
“If a sponsor goes against the district’s policies, we
won’t play that,” he said.
Installation of the system wouldn’t cost anything, and
the district would get back 5 percent of the revenue
from the advertisements, said Connolly.
David Rauseo, director of transportation, estimated
that the district would get back no more than $10,000
a year from the advertisements, which could be used to
offset other costs.
Rauseo said that in response to parent complaints, the
district has already banned two stations from being
played on school buses: KISS 108, a mainly top 40
station, and 94.5, which focuses on hip-hop and rap.
Rauseo said the morning shows on those stations have
Other than the banned station, bus drivers have
discretion as to what is played over the radio. Rauseo
said the new system could help create calmer
atmospheres on the buses.
“Hopefully to quiet down the buses,” he said, when
asked why he was recommending the system. “Give the
students something to be engaged with.”
The district has also begun installing video cameras
on school buses in an attempt to reduce the number of
There are no districts using Bus Radio in New
Hampshire, but they do serve the Woburn, Mass.,
district, as well as the Triton Regional School
District in Byfield, Mass., said Connolly.
Rauseo said what appealed to him was that the material
goes through a content review board, so there is
little chance derogatory material would make it
“This way, I know it’s all been removed,” he said.
Rauseo said First Student, which the district
contracts with for transportation, has already signed
off on it. New hardware would have to be installed on
all of the district’s buses.
Bus Radio is currently being heard on 800 buses in 17
districts, in nine different states. The company
started up about a year ago, said Connolly.
School board members had some general questions about
how the system works, but didn’t give an indication
about whether they were in favor of it.
Connolly played short clips of the audio for the
Administrators said they would continue studying it,
and then come back with a recommendation.
Board member Sandra Ziehm said she thought the system
looked good, especially because the content is age
Board member Tom Vaughan said one of the things the
board will have to consider is the advertising
content. He sees a difference between the commercials
heard on regular radio and those on Bus Radio, because
they are focused and targeted toward children.
“That doesn’t mean I’m not in favor of it,” he said.
“It’s just something we’ll have to consider.”
Bus Radio has also faced its share of opposition. The
Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood, based in
Boston, has organized a campaign against Bus Radio,
arguing that it “substitutes one problem for another
by replacing inappropriate content with advertising
targeted directly to children,” according to its Web
The organization advises that it’s better just to turn
off the radio. Rauseo said that while there are some
districts with “no radio” policies on school buses, he
doesn’t recommend that for Nashua.
Rauseo said bus drivers are able to use the radio as
an effective tool for discipline; if students on a bus
misbehave, students on that bus lose their radio
Connolly added there is a safety feature installed, as
All of the buses would be equipped with a “panic
button” that drivers could push in
the case of a hijacking, and the bus could be tracked
using global positioning system software.
Rauseo said he would like to see the system
implemented by the beginning of next year, if
administrators choose to recommend it.