A local Internet crusader wants BeeTV to go to the back of the bus.
The blogger -- who goes by the nom de guerre "BusMan" -- is fed up with the proliferation of advertisements on the flat-panel screens installed in the back and front of many Taipei buses.
Bombarding helpless bus passengers with the repetitive programming is like "gang rape," he says.
BusMan is the virtual alter ego of a bored civil servant, a nine-to-fiver who has little choice but to rise at 6am on weekdays to catch the bus to work. He airs his grievances on the Internet, interacting with visitors to his anti-BeeTV blog (http://tw.myblog.yahoo.com/anti-beetv/guestbook). The weblog has registered nearly 11,000 hits in its first four months of existence, suggesting that BusMan has tapped a strong current of public resentment regarding the BeeTV phenomenon.
He has even gone so far as to compare himself to Rosa Parks, the African American woman who galvanized the US civil rights movement by refusing to sit in the back of a bus in 1955. BusMan says Taipei's buses are ground zero in the populist fight against the inhumanity of corporate Taiwan.
Despite the vitriol and hyperbole, BusMan's manifesto actually comes off as rather reasonable. He appeals to authorities to merely tone down BeeTV's content and volume; he doesn't advocate banning the screens altogether.
And he's not alone. The popularity of his vision, at least in cyberspace, hints at the possibility of a full-blown anti-BeeTV movement. A growing number of bloggers are airing their fight to win back peace and quiet on buses, so that commuters can reflect or nap a little before joining the daily rat race. And a recent informal survey of local straphangers found many who agreed that BeeTVs were obnoxious and too loud.
Is BeeTV really as invasive and annoying as BusMan would have us believe?
Scott Lee (李世揚), CEO of OmniAd Media, which owns BeeTV, told the Liberty Times that characterizing the service as "gang raping" passengers was going a bit too far.
"If there wasn't any BeeTV, there wouldn't be any money for the electronic announcement signs," Lee said.
He added that the TVs are quieter than the buses themselves and that BeeTV intends to clean up the content, adding more educational or cultural programs.
Responding to criticism that BeeTV is force feeding bus passengers commercial after commercial, Lee told the newspaper that the advertisements account for only one-tenth of overall BeeTV content.
But the company's website (http://beetv.omniad.com.tw) contradicts these numbers. It states that BeeTV shows 24 minutes of advertisements for every 36 minutes of programming. And a BeeTV spokeswoman told the Taipei Times that the content is actually split 50-50 between
advertisements and programming.
Whichever figure is accurate, BeeTVs do seem to have quieted down and become less racy these days. They've even attracted a loyal fan base.
According to a recent media survey by US-based market analysis company ACNielsen, the majority of Taiwanese public bus passengers are aged 12 to 39. Many of these are students. This explains why BeeTV gears much of its content towards a younger, trendier audience. Students tended to be enthusiastic about BeeTV because it helped them pass the time on the bus by entertaining them with cartoons and other content that appealed to their generation.