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Schools stall BusRadio

Taunton Gazette, 9/21/06

TAUNTON - With $80,000 in radio equipment bought and ready to be installed on 40 Taunton school buses, the School Committee had yet to make up its mind.

The district's previously approved BusRadio contract was yanked back for discussion at last night's meeting.

Although the committee voted to approve the contract with the satellite radio provider - a for-profit company that approached the district, asking to exchange a revenue share for exclusive rights to school bus airwaves - some members had second thoughts.

The debate and ultimate decision - whether to continue with the contract or risk legal repercussions and rescind the decision to accept BusRadio - continued past press time last night.

Steve Shulman, BusRadio president, sent a letter to the district raising the possibility that withdrawing from the agreement may be illegal.

"We haven't consulted our legal counsel yet," Shulman s aid when contacted before the meeting. "We don't want to get into a legal battle with the city. When Taunton makes their decision, we'll make ours."

Shulman said he had hoped his company would start installing the radios within two weeks and have the m fully operational by the last week of October. The only thing missing from the company's agreement with the school was a signature on the dotted line.

He was under the impression all details were settled, and only formalities remained.

Several committee members, however, had lingering doubts. The three-person subcommittee on finance and law voted unanimously to discuss the topic before the entire committee.

By 10 p.m. last night, that discussion had yet to start, but was expected.

BusRadio, as an idea, has come under fire by several activist groups, including the Boston-based Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood, and the West Coast-based Commercial Alert. The radio programming includes commercials for films, television and such products as sneakers, bottled water and cell phones.

The Mansfield School District refused to enter into a deal with the company after parent concerns were heard by its school committee.

BusRadio promised an approximate first-year start-up paymen t to the district between $5,000 and $10,000. The company said revenue should increase as the program continues.

Shulman would not say how many schools are participating, but only that it will launch this fall in 11 different states. He said if Taunt on doesn't want the radio units, they won't go to waste, because "other school districts are lining up to sign on."


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