A recent decision by the Ministry of Culture’s Department of Audiovisual and Music Industry Development to ban outdoor advertising for the Taiwanese horror movie Ghost Tales (變羊記) on the grounds that its promotional posters display “a sense of terror” has prompted an outcry from the film’s distributor, accusing the ministry of unfair treatment.
The department prohibited the display of posters for the movie — which is dark with a goat standing in front of a shadowy human figure — in outdoor venues.
That means the distributor cannot display the poster at MRT stations, on the exterior of buses, outdoor billboards or in print media or outlets, the department said.
However, the movie’s distributor, the Swallow Wings Films Company (SWFC), accused the department of unfair treatment and preventing it from disseminating promotional materials for the film.
SWFC general manager Gene Yao (姚經玉) said that other horror movies such as Saw 3D and Invitation Only, both of which contained scenes of killing and torture, were all allowed to use outdoor and mobile advertising.
“The ministry must not take a backward step while the whole world is moving forward,” Yao said. “Although Ghost Tales may not have a large enough budget to run a large-scale promotional campaign, its basic right to do so should not be curtailed.”
Meanwhile, random street interviews with pedestrians undertaken by the Chinese-language Liberty Times (sister paper of the Taipei Times) asking their opinion on the issue indicated that most people opposed the ban.
Some said that despite being “spooky,” the posters were not scary enough to warrant being banned, while others said printed materials were never terrifying.
Given that “sense of terror” is a subjective judgement that can be expected to differ from one person to another, the basis for the ministry’s ban has been called into question.
“On the basis of what measurement criterion has the ministry made its judgement?” the film company asked.
However, in light of the public outcry, the ministry on Tuesday evening said it would hold a public hearing on the case.
SWFC said it welcomed the ministry’s move, but added that it hoped the ministry would invite people from a wide range of backgrounds to the hearing and not just certain groups such as elementary and junior-high school teachers.