TVs a transport of delight or moving target?

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 03 November, 2001, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 03 November, 2001, 12:00am

Lai See has been following the great bus/TV debate with great interest. Well not exactly great, more bemused interest.

The crux of the issue appears to be 'to broadcast, or not to broadcast'.

For those living outside Hong Kong, here is a brief synopsis: A few months back, mini-buses, buses and ferries started installing 'infotainment' systems, or to use the common term - televisions.

Since then a debate has raged between passengers, bus-owners and the Transport Department over the so-called nuisance of on-board TVs, in particular the noise has come in for major criticism.

Last month, in a letter to the South China Morning Post, Kevin Wong, for the Commissioner for Transport, pointed out that a survey in March had showed that 82 per cent of respondents considered TV broadcasting a better service and 69 per cent liked it very much or liked it 'somewhat'.

Mr Wong helpfully pointed out that: 'A quiet zone exists immediately behind the driver and on the left side of the lower deck.'

And so, the 179 passengers who have complained about the noise to the department during the past two months now know where to stand.

We see this becoming an issue when they all decide to get on the same bus.

According to Mr Wong, the TV system is also being used as a platform for trial and research into the application of Global Positioning System technology in bus tracking and bus operations.

We concede that this will be very useful when a bus full of passengers goes missing at sea during a heavy storm but we are equally concerned about the consequences should a stray United States missile happen to be in the area.

Lai See must confess to not having been on a bus with a TV set blaring and so may not have been in the best position to comment.

With this in mind, we packed off our domestic helper with the correct bus fare and a packed lunch and asked her to report back with her views.

When she returned four days later she said the films were very good but the landing was a bit bumpy.

It was only later that we found out she had mis-understood our instructions and had flown to Manila to visit her family.

Undeterred, we decided to give it a go. After hailing a taxi, we made it to the bus-stop with time to spare before the first bus arrived.

The waiting passengers smiled amiably at each other and a festive atmosphere prevailed until the bus arrived, at which point a fight broke out at the front of the queue between a group of pensioners.

We used the distraction to slice a hole in the shopping bag of the woman in front of us and as she tried to stop her groceries rolling off down the hill, we side-stepped the fracas and managed to grab a front seat.

Settling down for a spot of infotainment we shouted to the driver that we'd like a large coke and some chocolate popcorn before the third stop but he indicated with two fingers that we would get it by the second stop.

The tele-visual feast set before us started with some ads, closely followed by some ads and was topped off with a few more ads for good measure.

The infotainment system seemed to be top heavy info with very little tainment.

We tried to catch the attention of the 179 passengers located in a quiet zone immediately behind the driver and on the left side of the lower deck but they were complaining too loudly about the cramped conditions to notice us.

Turning to the lady next to us we asked if she was enjoying the show. She frowned at us and turned back to the screen.

Thinking she couldn't hear above the hubbub we rolled a newspaper up into a funnel and shouted down it into her ear.

Unfortunately she jumped so high that she landed three rows behind and ignored us for the rest of the journey despite leaving her shoes behind.

We soon decided that we'd had enough infotainment excitement for one day and jumped off the bus, cancelling our coke and popcorn order with the driver. He indicated with his middle finger that there was only one more stop to go but we told him to give the snacks to the lady with no shoes.

We mused on the benefits of TVs on public transport as the bus disappeared around the bend closely followed by a missile-shaped object with Cruise stencilled on the side.

Graphic: ls03gbz