Montgomery Schools Cancel Service

By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 12, 2008

Montgomery County schools have decided to switch off BusRadio, a private network that provides programmed music and advertising on school buses.

School officials said yesterday they have abandoned a trial of the radio service on 50 buses that carry 6,000 students in the Rockville area, acting in the face of mounting criticism from national advocacy groups and area parents.

BusRadio, based in Needham, Mass., provides wireless radio programming to about 10,000 school buses in 24 states at no charge, a service funded by ad revenues, some of which is shared with schools. Company President Steve Shulman said BusRadio fills a niche by providing age-appropriate music to drivers, who often play regular broadcast radio to quiet their passengers.

Wireless units were installed last winter in Montgomery, the company's first D.C.-area venture.

Activists raised questions this week about the wisdom of exposing a captive student audience to advertising. The national PTA and other groups oppose the service.

Shulman said that bus drivers had been instructed to switch off BusRadio but that they would still be able to broadcast regular AM or FM stations on the buses. He held out hope that the school system would reconsider the service.

"They need to educate people on what BusRadio is," he said.

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