Nashua, NH

September 11, 2007
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Nashua may tune in to ‘Bus Radio’

By MICHAEL BRINDLEY, Telegraph Staff
mbrindley@nashuatelegraph.com
Published: Sunday, Sep. 9, 2007
MULTMEDIA IN THIS ARTICLE:

NASHUA – As Smashmouth’s “All Star” fades out, a cool, edgy voice comes on and asks, “Have you logged onto BusRadio.com lately?”

A commercial for a new DVD of the “Bratz” movie comes up next, followed by some more music: Jesse McCartney’s “Right Where You Want Me.”

Afterward, the disc jockeys, Matt and Lucia, do a segment called “Matt’s Impossible Question.”

Depending on your point of view, Bus Radio is either an effective alternative to what’s played on traditional AM/FM radio or it’s an inappropriate marketing tool focused on children.

Either way, the company’s programming could be what’s played on all of the city’s school buses by the middle of the school year.

After a presentation before the school board in April, the board’s finance and operations committee took up the issue at an Aug. 9 meeting and voted to recommend contracting with Bus Radio, a company based in Needham, Mass.

It’s expected to come up for a vote at Monday’s school board meeting. The meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. in the career center at Nashua High School South.

The school district’s transportation director, David Rauseo, is also recommending the district go with the company. He initially sought it out because of complaints about content being played on school buses.

“We know it’s all clean because all the music’s pre-screened,” he said. “That means I don’t have to play radio cop.”

Rauseo said he had to ban some stations, including KISS 108 and JAM’N 94.5, because of the complaints. Rauseo said the use of Bus Radio could help improve behavior on the buses, as well as ensure no profanity or inappropriate content comes over the airwaves.

The excerpt above is what you can expect your children to hear if they’re elementary students. There is different programming for middle and high school students. The description comes from a marketing CD provided by the company; BusRadio.com launches Sept. 17.

Along with the music, children-focused advertising and talk between the DJs, there are also public service announcements that urge kids to wear bike helmets and not to drop out of school, for example.

Sandra Ziehm, a member of the school board’s finance committee, was the only member to vote against it at the Aug. 9 meeting.

While she agrees something should be done so kids don’t hear something in appropriate, she says forcing children to listen to content and advertisements aimed at their age group isn’t the solution.

“Those who don’t like it are going to be forced to listen to it whether they like it or not,” she said. “We are penalizing everybody so we can control the behavior of the students.”

Ziehm also expressed concerns about personal student information being provided to the company, but Rauseo said that isn’t the case.

There would be no cost to the district if it were to sign on with the company, which would install the equipment on the buses for free. The district would get a minimal percentage of the profits from the advertising. When the idea was first presented to the school board in April, Rauseo said the district would get no more than $10,000 a year.

The programming is transmitted into the buses wirelessly. Along with the programming, buses would be equipped with a Global Positioning System and a panic button that can link to the police department.

According to the company, there is eight minutes of advertising for every hour of programming, and all of the content goes through a review board.

By comparison, Peter Lawley, the Southern New Hampshire general sales manager for WFNX in Boston, said his station averages about 12 to 15 minutes of advertising an hour.

Advertising on Bus Radio is geared toward entertainment, such as DVDs and music.

Steven Shulman, the company’s president and co-founder, said Bus Radio is on 10,000 of the 400,000-plus buses across the country and is heard by 1 million students. Bus Radio is used in 40 states, but Nashua would be the first district in New Hampshire, he said.

Shulman said he wanted to start the company after having his own negative experiences with FM radio.

“I have three children of my own, and I couldn’t even sit in my car without changing the radio station every time a promiscuous lyric or an ad for Viagra or an R-rated movie came on,” he said.

If a parent or student wants to have a song or advertisement removed from the radio, the district can contract the company and have it taken off the air, he said. But that has never happened, he added.

Shulman also said the bus driver has the option of turning off the radio or putting on an AM/FM station.

One of Bus Radio’s strongest opponents is the Boston-based Campaign For a Commercial-Free Childhood. Josh Golin, the campaign’s program manager, has lobbied school districts in Massachusetts not to sign on with Bus Radio.

“It’s going to create a captive audience of students who will be forced to listen to child-targeted advertising every day,” he said.

He questioned whether a commercial for “Bratz” is appropriate for elementary-age kids, saying the dolls have been criticized for the sexualizing of young girls.

“We have some real questions about whether that it is appropriate,” he said.

Shulman said he doesn’t see the service as targeting children, saying the only other alternative is to potentially expose children to content that is inappropriate on regular FM radio.

Shulman said he doesn’t see simply turning off the radio as a viable option, saying studies have shown that children are more likely to act out if there’s nothing playing.

Ed Maloney, vice president of programming for Bus Radio, said their standards “go above and beyond” those of the FCC. His staff goes through song lyrics and looks for sexual connotations and profanity.

Rauseo said he’d want to see if the program is effective for the first year or two, and then make a decision about a long-term contract.

What students will hear:

In its promotional kit provided to school board members earlier this year, Bus Radio included a CD with an hour-long demo of the elementary school programming and the middle and high school programming. Here’s a rundown of both:

ELEMENTARY SCHOOL

-The phrase “Bus Radio” or “busradio.com” is said 30 times during the hour-long demo.
-The banter between disc jockeys is more kid-focused. They tell each other knock-knock jokes and riddles. They often encourage listeners to visit busradio.com.
-There is a commercial for a “Bratz” DVD.
-These tracks were played:
Daniel Bedingfield – “Gotta Get Thru This.”
Smashmouth – “All Star.”
Jesse McCartney – “Right Where You Want Me.”
Will Smith – “Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It.”
“Get Your Head In The Game” (from “High School Musical”).
Letters to Cleo – “I Want You To Want Me.”
Chris Brown – “Yo (Excuse Me Miss).”
“Breaking Free” (from “High School Musical”).
Weezer – “Beverly Hills.”
JoJo – “Get Out.”
Tiffany – “I Think We’re Alone Now.”
Hillary Duff – “Play With Fire.”
Eiffel 65 – “Blue (Da Ba Dee).”
Brown Boy – “Superman.”
Baha Men – “Who Let The Dogs Out.”
Santana ft. Chad Kroeger – “Why Don’t You And I.”

MIDDLE AND HIGH SCHOOL

-The phrase “Bus Radio” or “busradio.com” is said 43 times during the hour-long demo. Like on the elementary demo, the DJs often encourage listeners to visit the site.
– These tracks were played:
The Killers – “Read My Mind.”
Beyonce – “Irreplaceable.”
Michelle Branch – “Everywhere.”
Bow Wow featuring T-Pain – “Outta My System.”
Gwen Stefani – “Sweet Escape.”
Rascal Flatts – “What Hurts The Most.”
Nickelback – “This Is How You Remind Me.”
Justin Timberlake – “What Goes Around.”
Teddy Geiger – “For You I Will (Confidence).”
JoJo – “Get Out.”
Sean Paul – “Temperature.”
hellogoodbye – “Here In Your Arms.”
Rihanna – “We Ride.”
Paul Wall – “Girl.”
Avril Lavigne – “On The Ride.”

– MICHAEL BRINDLEY