I recently started writing a short, light-hearted political column for Hong Kong Time Out Magazine. Below is the uncut, original version…
Shopping may be a territory-wide obsession, but even when between purchases we are constantly, relentlessly being sold something everywhere we go in the Capital of Capitalism. Advertising is so ubiquitously brash around our supposedly fragrant harbour that vulgar neon signage has become one of the iconic, defining features of the city.
Talking billboards and gargantuan video screens are offensive enough but it is the more subtle and intrusive messages than burden and encroach upon regular people just trying to get through their day. Certainly, nothing wants to make me want to stab myself with chopsticks more than being subjected to Bus TV. Frankly, I feel myself getting slightly dumber with each minute of inane, invasive, ‘infotainment’ drivel spewed out from no less than 15 speakers and 4 TVs installed on no less than 4000 double-deckers.
It is when there is no choice in the matter that is becomes more than just an annoyance – mandatory viewing of endless pop-culture mind-rot coupled with repeated weight loss and loan ads impede our quality of life and exploit a vulnerable, captive audience. Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if the programming embraced high-brow ideals of educating the masses in philosophy, science, history or how to make a nice organic vegetable patch. But now KMB have promised a roll out of geo-targeted advertising on buses via GPS, it appears the content is set to become all the more obtrusive (and creepy).
There is probably more chance of pigs flying out Donald Tsang’s butt-cheeks than there being any government regulation on the mental-rot of compulsory commercials, so what’s an activist to do? The Citizen’s Party, Hush the Bus [www.hush-the-bus.com] and Brighten HK [www.brightenhk.com] continue to campaign on bringing these force-fed TV ads to an end. Over the years, the groups have bought about a reduction in TV volume on buses, but their tireless fighting has also highlighted the wider issue of how powerless HK’s civic and environmental groups are when faced with profit making companies.
If, like me, a little part of you dies each time you’re made to consume Bus TV, log on to the aforementioned websites which detail a range of (perfectly legal) methods and ideas on how we can reclaim our public transport!
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