Only alcohol ads banned in Penang, says city councillor


GEORGE TOWN: We only ban alcohol advertisements on billboards, the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) said in response to claims that it had banned a performing arts show featuring nuns.

City councillor Ong Ah Teong said anything other than that was generally allowed, unless there was a red flag raised by the billboard owners.

He said in this case, the company that owns the LED billboard along Gurney Drive had “restrained itself” from allowing the ad to be displayed, suggesting that there was no application made to the MBPP in the first place.

“This is possibly because they were afraid it might affect religious sensitivities.

“When it comes to billboard ads, normally we follow federal guidelines. Typically, alcohol ads are not allowed.

“I am assuming those putting up the ads at the billboard company would look into sensitivity of the ads, too.

“In cases like this, I would like to advise the advertiser to write in formally to the council and we would take it from there,” he said when contacted by FMT.

Diong Chae Lian and her husband Richard Gardner had applied to a billboard company to put up ads of their latest theatre show along Jalan Maarof in Bangsar and Gurney Drive. Diong and Gardner run the “Gardner & Wife Theatre” company.

Diong Chae Lian and her husband Richard Gardner
Diong Chae Lian and her husband Richard Gardner

In a status update on Facebook on Monday, Diong said their application to both were rejected by the billboard company, with the company saying the Kuala Lumpur City Hall and MBPP “won’t approve” their video featuring performers in nun costumes.

“Because (according to the signage company) ‘It involves sensitivity and political issue… plus now is Ramadhan month’.

“Seriously?!!! A 20-second video is going to cause Muslims in urbane Bangsar and Gurney to abandon their faith?” Diong said in her publicly shared status update.

Diong also included a 20-second video advertisement that was supposed to be put up on the LED billboards, featuring the show dates, venues and the actors in nun outfits.

Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) licensing and petty traders management department director, Ibrahim Yusoff, told Malaysiakini that it had yet to receive an official application for the billboard ad.

“I don’t think it’s in my records. I don’t know about this, I only came to know about it when you called me,” he told the portal.

Ibrahim, however, admitted that as director of DBKL’s licensing department, he was in control of the visuals to be used.

The show, titled “Nunsense”, was a big hit when it was first staged in Kuala Lumpur back in 2001.

According to the “Gardner & Wife” website, Nunsense “broke every then-existing box-office record” by playing to 6,500 people over the course of three-and-a-half-weeks.

After a 15-year hiatus, the encore would take place at PJ Live Arts, Jaya One, Petaling Jaya from July 13 to Aug 7, and in Straits Quay, Penang, from July 27 to July 31.

LINK VIDEO: Promotional video on Nunsense