French ad ban OK'd; De Carolis will oversee

New law cuts commercials between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.

PARIS -- After months of speculation, French public networks finally bid au revoir to advertisements Wednesday when Culture Minister Christine Albanel announced that the government has officially adopted a controversial law for audiovisual reform in the territory.

The law bans ads on France Televisions group's networks after 8 p.m. and before 6 a.m., as of Jan. 5. Public channels will be completely commercial free by 2011.

The government will compensate for the gap in ad revenue by taxing the country's telecoms (0.9% of annual revenue) and private TV networks (3% of advertising revenue). A public audiovisual tax also will be increased based on inflation. The government already has pledged to give 450 million euros ($578 million) to France Televisions.

The reform outlines a new procedure for nominating the heads of both France Televisions and national radio group Radio France. The new presidents of the respective groups will be chosen by government officials for a five-year reign, rather than being named by state broadcasting regulator the CSA per previous protocol.

However, despite rumors that French President Nicolas Sarkozy planned to kick current France Televisions president Patrick de Carolis to the curb before his contract runs out, de Carolis will hold onto his job for the time being.

"The law doesn't call for the termination of the mandate of the current president. Patrick de Carolis will pursue his mandate and put the new reforms into effect," Albanel said at a news conference in Paris.

The adopted plan also specifies longer commercial breaks for the private networks -- from six to nine -- and a revision of the "Tasca" laws that set boundaries for each network's production obligations. The new audiovisual reform is the most significant change in the French audiovisual landscape since the privatization of TF1 in 1987.
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