Euro ad war ignites

EC threatens court date over film blurb ban

PARIS — The battle between France and the European Commission over a ban on televised film advertising is heating up, with the EC threatening to haul Gaul in front of the European Court of Justice if it continues to block the blurbs.

A 1992 French law prohibits the advertising of films, books and supermarkets on TV in an effort to protect alternative media outlets such as local newspapers. While supermarket and book ads were recently allowed on cable and satellite channels, the film ban remains.

For the cinema in particular, Gallic industryites cherish the law as a way of protecting local films from being marginalized by the cash-rich Hollywood studios.

The French advertising business is heavily regulated and prohibits many categories of business from advertising on television and in national newspapers. Over the last decade, these restrictions have caused several clashes with the EC.

Gaul’s culture czar, Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres, said Friday that contrary to the EC’s contention that the law punishes the cinema industry of other European Union members, the decree “benefits European films for which exhibition conditions remain difficult and which don’t have the necessary means for televised advertising campaigns.”

He added that the law was intended to preserve cultural diversity. The EC says the law is disproportionate to the threat and has formally asked France to lift the curb or face a suit in the European Court of Justice.

Orgs organize opposition

Gallic film associations have joined the bandwagon, fearing that French films will be outspent by Hollywood. The Society for Screenwriters, Directors and Producers (ARP) said lifting the ban would “create conditions in which the concentration of films on offer would mainly profit the American majors.”

The Society of Authors and Composers of Dramatic Works (SACD) echoed ARP, saying it deplored the EC’s decision and that it “gives prevalence to the logic of the market over the defense of cultural diversity.”

“Contrary to what (the commission) affirms, the possibility of televised advertising for films will not favor a more diversified offer of European cultural goods, but will profit the most commercial cinema, principally American, which is alone in having the financial means for such campaigns.”

As a conciliatory measure, the EC proposed that certain European films could be given lower TV advertising rates.

France has two months to end the ban before the EC can file charges with the court.

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