May 29th, 2003

Commercials on the TVs of 150 Milwaukee County Buses Causing Passenger and Driver Complaints

By Marti Mikkelson

BOB EDWARDS, host:

Milwaukee has installed television sets in 150 county buses.  Riders generally don’t mind the TV programs but the commercials are another matter.  Marti Mikkelson of member station WUWM reports.

MARTI MIKKELSON reporting:

On a chilly, rainy Monday morning about 50 commuters are packing into a bus that’ll take them from Milwaukee’s East Side to downtown. It’s about a 20-minute ride.

(Soundbite of bus)

MIKKELSON: Some passengers read to pass the time while others look around. This bus is equipped with three TV monitors mounted to the ceiling that silently scroll the latest news headlines, entertainment and baseball scores. But when the commercials come on, so does the volume.

(Soundbite of commercial)

Unidentified Man #1: Listen up, whether you’re a first-time buyer, full-time student or had any credit problems in the past, we can help.

MIKKELSON: Some riders say they don’t mind the monitors.  This middle-aged woman, who wouldn’t give her name, says she actually enjoys watching the programming.

Unidentified Woman: You know, the Serengeti with the animals and the trivia and the--the news updates and all of that, I like.  I like to look up there and see it and read it.

MIKKELSON: But other riders, like Justin Edwards, can’t stand the commercials.  He says when they’re blaring, he just can’t concentrate on his reading.

Mr. JUSTIN EDWARDS: Frankly, I think it’s ridiculous that we’re forced to listen to advertisements as well when we could be having conversations with friends instead or something else.

MIKKELSON: On this bus today, a number of passengers complain about how loud the commercials are.  It’s also a problem for this middle-aged bus driver, who also asked not to be named.

Unidentified Man #2: You know, it takes your eyes off the road and it’s kind of funny because our management’s been talking for the last 40 years about the fact that we can’t play electronic devices on the bus because they distract us.

MIKKELSON: Milwaukee County has experienced a 5 percent drop in bus ridership in the past couple of years.  In response, it raised fares, and eliminated some bus routes.  Transit system marketing director Joe Caruso says the county was approached a couple of years ago by a company called ITEC Entertainment based in Orlando, Florida.  The company had provided the TV monitors that were appearing on buses in that city.  Caruso says the county decided to give bus monitors a try when it was told it could earn a 10 percent share of net advertising sales.

Mr. JOE CARUSO (Transit System Marketing Director): Budgets are really tight and they’re tight, you know, not only in households, but in--corporately, and in governments, and you have to look at creative ways to increase your revenues, and sometimes in transit, choices are very minimal.

MIKKELSON: While Caruso says it’s too early to tell how much money Milwaukee County will make from this arrangement, the Orlando experience isn’t all that promising.  After two and a half years, that city still has not seen any money from the deal.  Bill Schneeman, an official with Orlando’s LINX bus system says next year the system expects to earn about $175,000.  In Milwaukee, Caruso says the county signed a five-year contract with the company providing the monitors so they’re here to stay. That doesn’t sit well with Commercial Alert, a national TV watchdog group based in Portland, Oregon.  Director Gary Ruskin says public transportation is just one more venue for advertisers to infiltrate society.

Mr. GARY RUSKIN (Director, Commercial Alert): This is ad creep.  It’s the creep of ads into every nook and cranny of our lives and culture. People deserve some rest from the commercial bombardment that they get just about every time they turn their head.

MIKKELSON: In other cities around the country, bus riders may soon see monitors showing up on their morning commutes.  Atlanta, San Diego, Miami and Chicago have all expressed an interest, though it’s not certain when any of them would see the promised revenue these bus ads produce.

For NPR News, I’m Marti Mikkelson in Milwaukee.

May 29th, 2003

Commercials on the TVs of 150 Milwaukee County Buses Causing Passenger and Driver Complaints

By Marti Mikkelson

BOB EDWARDS, host:

Milwaukee has installed television sets in 150 county buses.  Riders generally don’t mind the TV programs but the commercials are another matter.  Marti Mikkelson of member station WUWM reports.

MARTI MIKKELSON reporting:

On a chilly, rainy Monday morning about 50 commuters are packing into a bus that’ll take them from Milwaukee’s East Side to downtown. It’s about a 20-minute ride.

(Soundbite of bus)

MIKKELSON: Some passengers read to pass the time while others look around. This bus is equipped with three TV monitors mounted to the ceiling that silently scroll the latest news headlines, entertainment and baseball scores. But when the commercials come on, so does the volume.

(Soundbite of commercial)

Unidentified Man #1: Listen up, whether you’re a first-time buyer, full-time student or had any credit problems in the past, we can help.

MIKKELSON: Some riders say they don’t mind the monitors.  This middle-aged woman, who wouldn’t give her name, says she actually enjoys watching the programming.

Unidentified Woman: You know, the Serengeti with the animals and the trivia and the--the news updates and all of that, I like.  I like to look up there and see it and read it.

MIKKELSON: But other riders, like Justin Edwards, can’t stand the commercials.  He says when they’re blaring, he just can’t concentrate on his reading.

Mr. JUSTIN EDWARDS: Frankly, I think it’s ridiculous that we’re forced to listen to advertisements as well when we could be having conversations with friends instead or something else.

MIKKELSON: On this bus today, a number of passengers complain about how loud the commercials are.  It’s also a problem for this middle-aged bus driver, who also asked not to be named.

Unidentified Man #2: You know, it takes your eyes off the road and it’s kind of funny because our management’s been talking for the last 40 years about the fact that we can’t play electronic devices on the bus because they distract us.

MIKKELSON: Milwaukee County has experienced a 5 percent drop in bus ridership in the past couple of years.  In response, it raised fares, and eliminated some bus routes.  Transit system marketing director Joe Caruso says the county was approached a couple of years ago by a company called ITEC Entertainment based in Orlando, Florida.  The company had provided the TV monitors that were appearing on buses in that city.  Caruso says the county decided to give bus monitors a try when it was told it could earn a 10 percent share of net advertising sales.

Mr. JOE CARUSO (Transit System Marketing Director): Budgets are really tight and they’re tight, you know, not only in households, but in--corporately, and in governments, and you have to look at creative ways to increase your revenues, and sometimes in transit, choices are very minimal.

MIKKELSON: While Caruso says it’s too early to tell how much money Milwaukee County will make from this arrangement, the Orlando experience isn’t all that promising.  After two and a half years, that city still has not seen any money from the deal.  Bill Schneeman, an official with Orlando’s LINX bus system says next year the system expects to earn about $175,000.  In Milwaukee, Caruso says the county signed a five-year contract with the company providing the monitors so they’re here to stay. That doesn’t sit well with Commercial Alert, a national TV watchdog group based in Portland, Oregon.  Director Gary Ruskin says public transportation is just one more venue for advertisers to infiltrate society.

Mr. GARY RUSKIN (Director, Commercial Alert): This is ad creep.  It’s the creep of ads into every nook and cranny of our lives and culture. People deserve some rest from the commercial bombardment that they get just about every time they turn their head.

MIKKELSON: In other cities around the country, bus riders may soon see monitors showing up on their morning commutes.  Atlanta, San Diego, Miami and Chicago have all expressed an interest, though it’s not certain when any of them would see the promised revenue these bus ads produce.

For NPR News, I’m Marti Mikkelson in Milwaukee.

Comments

  1. Posted by Gene Burch on August 2nd, 2005

    Ever been to “It’s A Small World” at Disneyland?  That friggen song is played over and over all day long!  I drive a city bus in Anchorage, Alaska.  If I ever end up being a captive audience member who is forced to listen to a song or a commercial over and over during my bus driving working day, one of us is going to have to give.  Either the speakers will suffer a “breakdown”, or I will go out on worker’s comp leave for stress.

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