Every day I learn something new about radio and today I was really surprised to discover that there’s an entire radio service called BusRadio that is piped in to school buses and reaches a million kids. They tout themselves as “a superior, age-appropriate alternative to AM/FM radio programming.” According to an article in the Denver Post:
“BusRadio is free to the school districts and is heard each day on more than 9,000 school buses in 24 states. The districts receive a small amount of money for allowing the music on their buses. There is different programming for elementary, middle and high school students.”
US News and World Report picked up the story this week and goes into more detail about the service:
“…BusRadio sends music, contests, public service announcements, and commercials over the Internet to school district servers, which then forward the programming to buses using wireless transmitters.”
What’s controversial is the fact that BusRadio airs commercials and may not be playing age-appropriate music, according to detractors. The Post article explains that Congress has initiated an FCC review:
“Supporters say the radio content calms the kids on what can at times be a hectic bus ride.
But some parents say forcing their children to listen to commercials on the bus is akin to having their kids held hostage by corporate America. They also say the music is sometimes age-inappropriate.”
This definitely reminds me of some of the anti-Channel One (ad-supported TV news in schools) rhetoric from back in the day. BusRadio is fighting this backlash and has an extensive Q&A section called “Myth vs. Reality” on its website where it refutes many of these claims. Additionally, they allow parents to register on their website in order to listen to actual BusRadio programs that their kids may have heard.
Regardless, I’m never that thrilled about forcing kids to listen to commercial radio. But the whole brouhaha does bring back memories of my junior high school bus rides. We would plead with our driver to play the hot rock station and would feel so victorious if he complied. That was our bus radio.