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Montgomery County Schools Discontinue BusRadio Service

Daniel de Vise
The Washington Post
December 11, 2008

Montgomery County school officials said today they have decided to end a trial run of BusRadio, a private broadcast service that provides programmed music and ads to students on their school buses.

Wireless BusRadio units were installed last winter in 50 buses that carry 6,000 students from the Rockville area, out of 139,000 countywide. It was BusRadio's first venture into the Washington area. The company, based in Needham, Mass., has expanded from a 2006 startup to serve hundreds of thousands of listeners on 10,000 buses in 24 states.

Parent activists began raising questions this week about the wisdom of exposing a captive audience of student bus riders to advertising, which is a small but crucial component of BusRadio programming. The service is financed by advertising; school systems that sign up get the broadcasts at no cost and reap 5 percent of ad revenue.

No other school system in the area has acquired the service.

Brian Edwards, chief of staff to Superintendent Jerry D. Weast, confirmed this morning that a decision had been made to end the trial.

Before the flurry of inquiries and complaints, school officials had planned to convene a group of parents and employees involved in the trial to explore whether to expand BusRadio to the countywide bus fleet.

Steve Shulman, president of BusRadio, said in an interview yesterday that his company had a year-long waiting list of prospective clients.

The service provides an alternative to regular broadcast radio for drivers, who frequently turn on music to calm children on the way to and from school. Shulman's company also provides drivers with GPS technology and a "panic button" that alerts emergency workers when a bus is in distress, a technology school systems might not otherwise be able to afford.






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