The FCC put out a request for comment this week on a report it must produce for Congress on “commercial proposals for broadcasting radio or television programs for reception onboard specially-equipped school buses operated by, or under contract with, local public educational agencies.”
According to Josh Golin, of the Campaign For a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), the group worked with Senator Byron Dorgan (D-SD) to get the language inserted in the FCC's 2009 appropriation.
The appropriations bill directs the commission to produce a report within six months on "the nature of the material proposed to be broadcast and whether it is age appropriate for the passengers; the amount and nature of commercial advertising to be broadcast; and whether such broadcasts for reception by public school buses are in the public interest."
According to Golin, its concern was prompted by BusRradio, a Needham, Mass.-based company which has partnered with school districts to deliver the ad- supported service to kids 6-18 on more than 10,000 buses in 170 school districts in 24 states. It produces eight hours of "age-appropriate music, original programming and public service announcements" for elementary, middle school, and high school kids.
Golin is concerned that the kids are a captive audience for advertising. Golin said he knows of no proposal for a similar television service, but says it is certainly feasible given the lengths to which marketers are going to target children. "It's a business model that's out there now, so I am sure there are those tinkering with the idea of a TV service," he says.
Dorgan's spokesperson had not returned a call by press time, and a spokesman for BusRadio was not reachable at press time. But the BusRadio Web site includes a list of "Myth vs. Reality" categories in which it addresses the criticisms of CCFC and others, including the age-appropriateness of its music or the appropriateness of its ads..
The FCC has given commenters until June 15 to weigh in. Reply comments are due June 29.