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Radio Channel With Advertising Making Debut in Schools

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National advertisers have a new way to tap the high-school-student market--a music radio channel delivered by satellite to school lunchrooms, hallways, and student lounges.

Star Broadcasting Company of St. Paul this fall is offering schools the 12-hour daily service, along with a satellite dish, speakers, and wiring, in exchange for the right to broadcast eight to 10 minutes of advertising every hour.

The venture is similar to Whittle Communications' Channel One, a daily, 12-minute classroom television-news show that carries two minutes of advertising.

The Star radio service's developers say, however, that it will not air in classrooms or other places declared off limits by school officials. National ad revenue will be split with the participating schools, which also will get two minutes each hour to sell to local advertisers or to use for announcements.

"With all of their budget cuts, schools are obtaining resources more independently,'' said Scott Plum, the director of sales and marketing for Star Broadcasting.

"An average school with about 1,500 students could expect about $20,000 [in revenue] over the year,'' he said. "Schools can really use those dollars.''

Mr. Plum said 900 schools had signed up for the service as of last week, close to the company's target of 1,000 for the start of the school year. The company has not yet signed any major national advertisers, but it is pursuing contracts with soft-drink makers, jeans and athletic-shoe manufacturers, and record companies.

The service will offer two music formats--"top 40'' rock and country music--and schools can switch between them whenever they want, Mr. Plum said. The service broadcasts from 7 A.M. to 7 P.M. Eastern time.

Many schools already carry local radio stations in lunchrooms and student lounges, Mr. Plum said. One advantage of the Star channel, he said, is that it will provide music free of sexually explicit and violent lyrics.

"Everything is going to be screened very carefully,'' he said.

Lessons in Marketing

Star Broadcasting's partner in the service is 3M Sound Products, which will wire schools with a satellite dish and speakers, as well as package the music programming.

Star has been pitching the service through faculty advisers to Distributive Education Clubs of America chapters, which promote marketing and business skills among high school students.

Joe Felardo, a marketing teacher and DECA chapter adviser at Eureka Senior High School in Eureka, Calif., said the service will give his students a chance to sell ads to local merchants and provide money for the school.

"When I first read about it, I said this sounds too good to be true,'' he said. "I took it to the school-site council and principal, and they agreed to try it on a trial basis.''

Lyle Hamilton, a spokesman for the National Education Association, was less complimentary, saying the radio service is just the latest example of marketers using schools to reach the lucrative youth market.

"We wouldn't think this is a step in the right direction,'' he said. "The more commercials there are in the schools, the more clutter.''

The Star radio channel is being launched as several other companies are introducing commercially sponsored current-events videos for elementary schools.

Kidsnews videos, which include messages from such sponsors as Hershey Foods Corporation and Hasbro Inc., will be launched this month in 3,000 elementary schools. (See Education Week, July 14, 1993.)

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