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LCQ19: Showing pre-recorded information programmes in public transport

Following is a question by the Hon Leung Yiu-chung and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology, Mr Joseph W P Wong, in the Legislative Council today (June 14):

Question:

Regarding the regular broadcast of information through electronic screens on public buses, light buses and train compartments of the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation, will the Government inform this Council whether:

(a) it has studied how similar devices are regulated overseas; if so, whether it will tighten up the regulation of the broadcast of information mentioned above by making reference to overseas practice in this respect;

(b) it will consider establishing proper channels for receiving complaints from passengers about nuisances caused by the above-mentioned broadcast or the broadcast of false information; if so, whether the number of such complaints will be one of the considerations in determining whether or not to approve the renewal of the franchises or licences of the organisations or operators concerned;

(c) it will consider making it a mandatory requirement that the organisations or operators concerned must designate a reasonable quiet zone on train compartments or vehicles before they are allowed to install such electronic broadcasting devices on the vehicles; and

(d) it will consider amending the Broadcasting Ordinance to regulate the information broadcast on vehicles or trains compartments?

Reply:

Madam President,

(a) We have not specifically conducted any study on overseas regulation of on-board information display installations in public transport vehicles. At present, regulation of such installations in public buses and public light buses (PLBs) in Hong Kong, such as the materials and location of electronic display screens, is governed by the Road Traffic (Construction and Maintenance of Vehicles) Regulations (Cap. 374 sub. leg.). On granting new franchises to bus companies, the Government has included a provision which requires prior approval from the Transport Department (TD) before information display systems could be installed on buses. Similarly, the conditions of passenger service licences issued to PLB operators specify that prior approval from TD is required for installation of information display systems. As regards railways, before information display services are introduced on trains, the railway corporation concerned has to prove to the Hong Kong Railway Inspectorate under the Environment, Transport and Works Bureau and TD that the provision of such services will not affect the normal and safe operation of railways.

As regards the content of the programmes, according to the existing legislation, operators showing pre-recorded information programmes in their public transport vehicles must comply with the requirements under the Film Censorship Ordinance (Cap. 392). Such programmes have to be submitted to the Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority for examination before public exhibition.

(b) At present, any passenger who considers the sound volume of information programmes in a public transport vehicle excessive or causing nuisance may lodge complaints through the various established channels, such as TD, Transport Complaints Unit, Government hotline and the relevant public transport operators. Upon receipt of passengers' complaints or feedback, the Government will request the operators concerned to follow up and put in place improvement measures, including adjustment of sound level, enhancement to audio quality and improvement to quiet zones arrangement. In respect of the sound volume of information programmes on buses and green minibuses (GMBs), TD will conduct surprise checks and require the operators concerned to make improvement if the sound volume is considered excessive.

In processing applications for bus franchise and GMB service licence, the Government will consider the overall service performance of the companies concerned and their capability to continue providing satisfactory transport services. Passengers' complaints against bus and GMB service operators, including complaints about information display services, will be one of the considerations. As regards the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation (KCRC), the Government will monitor passengers' feedback on its railway services including that on information display, and if necessary, require the railway corporation to put in place improvement measures. The railway corporation will also review their services from time to time for continuous service improvements.

(c) The Government has already asked public transport operators to take full account of the different needs of passengers when providing information display services in their vehicles. On this, quiet zones are provided in most of the public transport vehicles which display information programmes.

A quiet zone is designated at the rear of the lower deck of franchised buses and only one speaker is installed at the lower deck for displaying information programmes. For KCRC, two compartments for each East Rail train are designated as Quiet Cars, and one section of the First Class Compartment the Quiet Zone. Both West Rail and Ma On Shan Rail have designated one compartment for each train as the Quiet Car. All Quiet Cars are at the middle section of the train. There are directory signs indicating the quiet zone at the platform and inside train compartments for easy identification by passengers.

As regards GMBs, while designation of quiet zones is not feasible due to the size constraint of vehicle compartments, operators are required to install an ON/OFF switch for each speaker so that passengers can make a choice.

(d) At present, the provision of television programme services for domestic premises or hotel rooms requires a licence under the Broadcasting Ordinance (Cap. 562). However, television programmes solely for display in public places, including outdoor media, are not subject to the regulation of the Broadcasting Ordinance. To our understanding, no jurisdictions of advanced countries or economies regulate outdoor media as broadcasting services. We do not consider it appropriate to amend the Broadcasting Ordinance to regulate such media.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006