Byline: Amanda Birns

PARIS — Emerging online companies have whipped up a noisy controversy in France over advertising rules and are challenging regulations that prohibit retailers, filmmakers and publishers of books, magazines and newspapers from advertising their wares on TV. The 1992 decree is particular to France and was issued in order to protect radio and newspaper advertising revenues.
A final decision on the month-long debate, which was expected March 24, was postponed and may now have been put off indefinitely after a government shakeup on Monday. French Minister of Culture and Communication Catherine Trautmann, who had the dossier, was replaced by Catherine Tasca.
The Superior Audiovisual Council (CSA), France’s equivalent of the FCC, said Feb. 22 that it planned to authorize TV advertising for all Web sites, including those whose parent company would be banned from TV because of the decree. Panic among the publishing unions ensued, and a week later, Trautmann intervened and asked the CSA to postpone its ruling for a month and hold discussions with all sides, according to Beatrice Bastide, adviser to the then-minister.
Although newspapers have long-supported the ban, they began to have second thoughts when they were sidelined while TV stations advertised their own dot-coms on the air and asked the CSA to intervene.
It’s going to be tricky, but under draft guidelines, the CSA would still prohibit TV plugs for products. For example, would not be allowed to advertise on TV because it refers to a specific film, but a Web site such as the French Film Association’s could do TV advertising.
In the same month, in an effort to promote its Web site, France’s largest book and music retailer, FNAC, a unit of Pinault-Printemps-Redoute, changed its name to Just a coincidence, insisted a spokeswoman for the store chain. “However, we’d be more than happy to advertise on television if permitted.”
A spokeswoman for the CSA said it will continue discussions until a decision has been made, and representatives for the new minister Tasca were not yet prepared to comment on the matter.

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