8 Minutes To 4 Minutes

January 12, 2008

When Bus Radio first came on the scene in 2006, they said there would be 8 minutes of advertising per hour of programming.

This week it was discovered that Bus Radio has lowered the amount of advertising – or "sponsorships" as they call it now – to an average of 4 minutes.

This may be a big change or it may not be.

Bus Radio has always played fast and loose with words. Words mean what Bus Radio wants them to mean, therefore it is difficult for the public to understand what this company is attempting to do with schoolchildren.

In September 2006, Bus Radio tells USA Today that they will have 6 minutes of PSA ads and 8 minutes of commercials. The chart below reflects the new breakdown. It is taken from Busradio.net.



Notice the asterisk after "Music and Original Programming." They define the largest piece of the pie chart as the time for "on-air personalities, contests, listener shout-outs, etc." You can’t get more vague than this. "etc." of course opens the door to anything. What school board would agree to such an open-ended deal like this.

Bus Radio has had dozens of music artists on their show being interviewed by Mat and Lucia, the Bus Radio on-air personalities, for the sole purpose of promoting a new CD or new TV show or new movie. This is advertising. Does Bus Radio consider this advertising? We don’t know. If they do, then it is easy to see why they could lower their ad time to 4 minutes by simply moving some of its advertising to "original programming."

Notice that PSAs (public service announcements) and safety messages are to take up to 4 minutes (on average) an hour. PSAs are non-commercial advertisements. PSAs range from spots that send out a very responsible message to young people to those that urge young people to go to a specific web site or to call a number to join an organization. All PSAs should be considered advertising. Who gets to choose what PSAs your community’s students should hear on the ride to and from school? Not the school board. Not the teachers. Not the parents. Not the bus drivers. The people who pick and choose are the fat-cat executives sitting in the Bus Radio offices in Needham, Massachusetts. If they want your child to become more concerned about an issue they can make sure that happens. Local schools who have signed up with Bus Radio have turned over a portion of the school day (and most schools consider kids under the rules and authority of the school from the moment they step on the bus in the morning to the moment they step off the bus in the afternoon) to the perfect strangers working for Bus Radio.

The equally-controversial Channel One News had a long history of very disturbing PSAs. Channel One PSAs. Parents should not assume all Bus Radio PSAs are in their child’s best interests especially since Bus Radio’s captive audience ranges down to five years of age. A PSA that may be appropriate for a high school student may not be for a first grader.

Notice that "Sponsorships" are "4 mins/hr (avg.)." Average?? This is the one segment of time that is of greatest concern to school officials, parents and the public. There is no organization or government entity that has any opportunity to review Bus Radio’s daily content to see if they are abiding by their self-imposed limits. Bus Radio is policing Bus Radio. Bus Radio is telling the public to trust Bus Radio. School boards that accept this situation are showing reckless disregard for the children in their charge.

Maybe Bus Radio really has moved from 8 minutes of regular commercial advertising per hour to 4 minutes per hour, but NO student should be forced to listen to ANY school-supported advertising on school buses.