In the Spring 2007 edition of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives' (CCPA) indispensable journal, Our Schools Our Selves, Larry Kuehn reports that corporations have found yet another “trojan horse” for marketing junk to students. It's called Bus Radio, and you guessed it, it's a company that streams radio into that ever-so-captive vessel known as the school bus, reaching young consumer, er, student minds.
Eleven states have signed up for this ingenious mobile marketing scam, and the company is forecasting 1 million students (as young as six years old) will be tuned in by next year. Of course, only eight percent of every broadcast hour is for sponsor's corporate commercials, but you have to wonder just how much of the 44 percent the company says goes to “music and news” is a subtler stream of commercials.
I mean, what kind of “news” is this company broadcasting to kids? I'm guessing something along the lines of “…Sony just announced their next PlayStation will be hitting shelves this November, and in the film world, it looks like Warner Brothers is gearing up for Spiderman 12….” Yes, news.
The company says its interested in helping with student safety and behaviour, and that studies show that when the radio is on, behaviour on the bus gets better. Nothing like rows of teens tuned into corporate messaging with glazed looks on their faces on the way to school to make marketers sigh at their own brilliance. And lets not forget that moral panic never sets in with these initiatives as complying media and academics couch such ruthless incursions into education as “regrettably needed, with public funding dwindling..” Next up: Brace Radio – broadcasting that uses teen braces as antennae…