Congress Investigates Radio Programming on School Buses

Do radio shows on school buses turn students into captive audiences?

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Congress has ordered a Federal Communications Commission review of BusRadio—a radio programming system that is heard each day on 10,000 school buses in 24 states—because of questions about the age-appropriateness of its music and the effects of its advertisements on students and bus drivers, the Denver Post reports.

Reaching more than 1 million students everyday, 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. (Click here to learn more about the company, which calls itself the "first and only radio show delivered exclusively to school buses nationwide.")

Supporters of the programming say it keeps students calm and engaged during what can be hectic bus rides. But others charge the media company with forcing kids to listen to commercials and "holding them hostage to corporate America." Critics also say that BusRadio broadcasts music that sometimes might not suitable for the children.

In May, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a national coalition of healthcare professionals, educators, advocacy groups, and parents, requested that Congress initiate the review. More than 1,200 people commented on the FCC website during the first month of the process, according to the Denver Post.

Susan Linn, director of the CCFC, says that schools, and school buses, should be commercial-free zones. "One of the purposes of school is to promote reason, and one of the purposes of marketing is to undermine reason in the interest of selling products," she says. "It's not good for students."

Michael Yanoff, CEO of BusRadio, stands by the company's programming. He says that the students, drivers, transportation managers, and superintendents in districts that use BusRadio "overwhelmingly enjoy" it and that "those are the people that really matter, because they have the students' best interests in mind every day."

"A lot of the criticism comes from people that have never experienced the program," he adds.

Alex Sanchez, spokesperson for the Denver Public Schools, which uses BusRadio, told the Denver Post the district will "wait and see" regarding the FCC inquiry. He noted that there have been no problems with the radio program and that it has helped to improve safety on buses, the district's main reason for using the service.

TAGS:
education
FCC
education reform
K-12 education