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Admen’s take on Putrajaya possibly imposing RM1,000 fine for broken Bahasa on ads

Putrajaya may enforce a fine of up to RM1,000 for the incorrect use of Bahasa Malaysia on advertisements, including those online, should the Parliament pass amendments to the National Language Act 1963 and Education Act 1996.

Quoting Chinese daily Nanyang Siang Pau, which cited a “reliable but unnamed source”, Malaysiakini stated that Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) will be empowered to enforce the legislation in Putrajaya. According to Malaysiakini, Nanyang Siang Pau’s source said the suggestion for the RM1,000 fine will be discussed by a special cabinet committee led by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. If an agreement is reached, the Education Ministry will file the amendments to enable DBP to impose the fine. DBP is the government body in charge of coordinating the use of the Malay language and Malay-language literature in Malaysia.

In a conversation with A+M, Shaun Tay, CEO of FCB Kuala Lumpur likened the move to putting the breaks on the country’s natural cultural evolution.

“Language is supposed to evolve with time. It has to be contemporary. That’s why new words are created and added to languages all the time,” he said, citing words such as selfies and tweets as examples.

“Otherwise we’ll be stagnant and reliant on archaic, long form terms to get to a point – which is not a very progressive trait to have for a country with such future forward ambitions,” he said.

Advertising is a major proponent to creating culture so a more collaborative approach that brings in the 4As to the discussion is required.

Also weighing in on the discussion is Syed Nasir, business chief of The Clan, who added that the industry has always been wary of DBP “when proposing copy especially for above-the-line” activities. Due to DBP’s vague guidelines, the process of attaining approval from it is tedious and time consuming, according to Nasir.

“There is no need to consistently justify our creative copy, and if ‘lucky’, it will get passed. Hence, I am not sure why they intend to impose a fine because the final approval essentially comes from them,” Nasir added.

David Soo, managing director of Zenith Malaysia said it could be a right move to avoiding abuse of the language. But the concern would be on how can they police this, especially when they have included digital media into the mix which is constantly being optimised.

“I don’t think it is at all limiting to the creative process. However, having said that there isn’t a defined guide as to proper use and this could be an area of dispute,” he said.

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