Fri, Nov 24, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Karaoke owners singing the blues over noise law change

By Tang Sheng-yang and Hua Meng-ching  /  STAFF REPORTERS

People tired of losing sleep because of loud karaoke music from nearby restaurants may finally be able to get a good night's rest, thanks to an amendment to the Noise Control Act (噪音管制法) that could make it easier to fine restaurant owners who don't comply.

Previously, inspectors from the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) were required to measure noise levels for eight consecutive minutes to issue a fine for exceeding specified levels. Restaurants were usually able to avoid being fined because most songs only last four to five minutes.

Under the amendment, however, inspectors would only have to register excessive volume for two minutes to issue a fine of NT$3,000.

Another obstacle to enforcing noise limits was the Administrative Procedure Law (行政程序法), which required EPA inspectors to notify the establishment that they were monitoring. This meant restaurant owners could simply turn off their karaoke machines, then start them up again once the inspectors had left.

Under the amendment, prior notification is no longer required.

Some restaurant owners are crying foul, however, claiming that the laws are too strict and are squeezing their business.

For example, there are more than 300 restaurants with karaoke machines in Keelung. In 2002, the city government passed a law saying that establishments without an audiovisual entertainment license would be subject to a maximum fine of NT$50,000 if they provided karaoke to customers between 11pm and 7am.

Some restaurant owners said that even if they were to go to the expense of buying sound dampening equipment, they would still be vulnerable to fines if customers left a door to a karaoke room open.

Ku Shu-chuan (顧淑娟), a restaurant owner in the port city, said that "there are lots of karaoke restaurants in Keelung. Business owners were shocked when they heard the news [of the amendment] because they thought it would strangle their livelihood."

"In fact, machines like motor scooters produce 50 to 60 decibels when running even if you aren't riding them, so shouldn't they be fined for running for two minutes too? I hope that these regulations are enforced in consideration of reality, reason and the law," she said.

But it's not just restaurant owners who are worried.

"Retired or elderly friends like to pay a little money to spend some time singing songs at a mobile karaoke or in a park is pure entertainment," Taipei City resident Su Cheng-yi (蘇正一) said.

"The noise inspectors' measuring time has been lowered to two minutes, but you usually need four or five minutes to sing a song. This regulation is too strict, and it doesn't fit real life situations," Su said.

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