Thursday, May 1, 2008

BusRadio

The road to Hell starts with a school bus ride.

Children’s Advocates Ask Companies Not to Advertise on Bus Radio and Channel One
Following is today’s letter from a group of child advocates to the leading national advertisers and ad agencies.

Dear Corporate/Ad Agency Leader:

As you know, advertising is now commonplace in the public schools. Yet, many advertising and marketing professionals have deep misgivings about marketing to school children. According to a 2004 Harris poll of youth advertising and marketing professionals, only 45% “feel that today’s young people can handle advertising in schools.” Not surprisingly, 47% believe that “schools should be a protected area” and that “there should not be advertising to students on school grounds.”

We are writing to ask for your help to turn your industry’s conscience into a reality, and to protect our children and their education from aggressive marketers.
Channel One is a highly controversial in-school marketing company that delivers televised content to nearly 11,500 schools throughout the nation. In exchange for video equipment, these schools now spend one full school week each year watching television, including one full school day just for the ads. According to the Harris poll, 61% of youth marketing professionals believe that it is “inappropriate” for companies like Channel One to “provid[e] instructional material that integrates brand names and products into the lessons.”

BusRadio is the newest foray of advertisers into public schools. It seeks to install special radio equipment into school buses that will carry that company’s offerings, including eight minutes of ads per hour. In its contract with school districts, BusRadio does not rule out advertising any particular type of products. If Channel One is any guide, we might expect BusRadio to advertise junk food, soda pop, violent and sexualized entertainment, and movies that encourage school children to smoke tobacco.

Whatever BusRadio advertises, children as young as six will have no choice as to whether to listen or not. Nor will their parents be able to exercise any control over their children’s exposure. The sales pitches will fill the bus and interfere with those children who want to read, study, talk, pray, or do almost anything else other than listen to the programming. According to the Harris poll, 69% of youth advertising and marketing professionals believe that “advertising on school buses” is “inappropriate.”

We agree with these professionals. We believe it is wrong for a company to use compulsory school attendance laws to force a captive audience of children to listen to advertising. As most practitioners in the field recognize, successful advertising depends on the willing participation of both advertiser and consumer. BusRadio and Channel One violate this fundamental principle.

We are asking your [company/agency] to pledge by October 15 not to buy advertising on Bus Radio or Channel One. We hope you will join with us and affirm that school children should not be compelled to listen to or watch advertising.

We will follow up with you in the next two weeks about whether your [company/agency] will make this pledge. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss at your convenience the issues in this letter. Please feel free to call Jim Metrock of Obligation, Inc. at (205) 822-0080, Gary Ruskin of Commercial Alert at (503) 235-8012, or Monique Tilford of the Center for a New American Dream at (301) 891-3683. We look forward to your reply.

Sincerely,

[various orgs]

The letters were endorsed by 40 organizations and 64 children’s advocates. Endorsers include the American Family Association, Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumers Union, Eagle Forum, Global Exchange and the National PTA, as well as the National Council of Churches Committee on Public Education and Literacy and the Presbyterian Church (USA) Office of Child Advocacy.

The letters are the first step in a new campaign to remove BusRadio and Channel One from every school in the United States. The campaign is organized by Commercial Alert, the Center for a New American Dream and Obligation, Inc.

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