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French agency under fire for OKing Web ads on TV

Critics fear Hollywood majors

PARIS — France’s television regulatory body, the Conseil Superieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA), is coming under increasing fire over its decision to allow Internet sites, including those devoted to cinema, to advertise on television.

CSA boss Herve Bourges announced the decision earlier this month, but can hardly have anticipated the extent of the criticism he’s received.

Since 1992, certain “cultural” sectors, including books, newspapers and films, have been prevented from advertising on television.

Backdoor play

The logic behind the ban, particularly when it comes to films, is that the high cost of spots would play into the hands of the Hollywood majors who have the marketing muscle to pay for ads. French films, it is argued, wouldn’t be able to compete for ad space and that would translate into a further loss of box office market share.

Bourges’ decision is seen as providing a backdoor entry for U.S. films, as the Hollywood studios may get themselves onto the small screen via specific Web sites. “If you can take an advert for a Web site devoted to a particular film, it basically amounts to taking a traditional ad for the picture,” explained one French distributor of local pics.

Rethink urged

Although the CSA move to allow the Internet ads is set for a provisional 18 months, Culture Minister Catherine Trautmann has told Bourges and his team to rethink the decision.

Cynics believe that Bourges made the move in an attempt to position the CSA as the regulatory body not just for television, but also for the ‘Net — an extension of power that the government is not keen to see happen.