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EU nations agree to keep TV advertising at current levels, impose limits on product placement

The Associated Press


European Union nations reached broad agreement Monday on keeping television advertising at current levels, and on keeping product placement out of news and children's programs.

The 25 EU ministers responsible for broadcasting hailed the tentative agreement as a major step toward halting encroaching commercialism in Europe's television industry.

The limits on advertising are to be kept to a maximum 12 minutes per hour, even if more leniency is granted on the number of slots. News and children's programs will need 30 minutes of broadcast before they can interrupted for ads, said Finnish Minister Susanna Huovinen, who chaired the meeting.

"The directive will have profound effect on European broadcasting," she said.

The EU's chief broadcasting official, Viviane Reding, said the rules would ensure that the EU TV market remains distinctly different from its commercialized American counterpart.

"We don't want U.S.-style television on European TV screens, with permanent advertising where advertising drives content," she said. "We want content to drive advertising."

Product placement would be curtailed to fund fiction programs with European content only, Reding said. Currently, she said, children received too little protection from such stealth advertising.

"Product placement is complete anarchy. It happens everywhere."

Huovinen said she hoped the European Parliament will back the proposals next month. Member states then need to confirm it next year before it can become law.

Broadcasting has expanded into mobile telephony and digital applications, forcing the EU to take special care not to curtail their development. Huovinen urged parliament to approve such rules as soon as possible.

"The sector urgently needs rules in line with the technological developments," said Huovinen.

Media and technology companies have warned that new EU rules could restrict the growth of emerging media formats such as video broadcasts through the Internet and mobile phones

They claim EU proposals ultimately could mean less investment in an area that has enormous growth potential.

Reding said the proposals underlined how important it is not to hem in initiative.

"There are more and more providers, and more and more competition," she said. "There is less need for detailed heavy rules and more need for flexibility."



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