The New York Times reports that a special radio channel has been installed in school buses. It plays music that kids like, and it plays commercials. The content is provided at no cost to the school district by RadioOne, which is only to happy to have a captive audience of young consumers.
Steven Shulman, who founded BusRadio with Michael Yanoff, said the company provided an “age-appropriate” alternative to local FM radio stations, with songs and advertising screened by an advisory committee of school administrators and psychiatrists.
In contrast, he said, his son once came home asking what Viagra was after hearing a commercial on the bus coming home from summer camp in Mashpee, Mass. BusRadio develops playlists from a library of 1,000 pop songs and will either edit out questionable content and lyrics or refrain from playing a song altogether. “It’s tough to find clean rap music, but we do,” Mr. Shulman said.
Recent advertisers on BusRadio include Answers.com, the Cartoon Network, Buena Vista Home Entertainment and the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports. The company does not accept advertising for candy or soda, or for toys that Mr. Shulman considers inappropriate, like video games with violent content, and it prefers advertisements that have a message. “We don’t want them to say, ‘Go out and buy $200 sneakers,’ ” Mr. Shulman said. “We want them to say, ‘Go and exercise, and use this gear if you want.’ ”
I appreciate this sensitivity (which is, I am sure, a commercial necessity), but do we really need to fill kids’ heads with mass media to and from school? Isn’t this time for social interaction and looking out the window and quiet reflection? Aren’t we teaching them that they should expect every minute of every day to be hooked into some form of media instead of learning how to make conversation and use their imagination? And do we really need to bombard them with more exhortations to buy more things?