French State calls TV ad ban illegal

Government acted without approval of State legislature

PARIS -- French TV viewers may be back to watching commercials despite a government ban on advertising on the country's public networks passed last January.

France's State Council deemed the new law illegal since it wasn't voted upon by appropriate state legislation.

France's State Council, which boasts around 200 members, acts as the highest court to which the legal affairs of the state can be referred. The Council argues that the government doesn't have the power to enact such a law without the approval of the State legislature.

Citing and declaring null and void a letter written by former Cultural Minister Christine Albanel on Dec. 15 asking France Televisions to ban ads on their networks between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., the State Council called the move "an abuse of power" since the Senate hadn't yet approved the future law.

The State Council maintains that France Televisions' ad revenue is an important element of the group's independence and said that "Such a measure can only be taken by the legislature."

The State Council not only nullified Albanel's letter, but also rescinded the validity of a meeting held by the administrative council to accept Albanel's request.

The State Council decision was symbolic, since the official removal of ads on the networks will be voted upon on March 5. The ad ban, effective after 8 p.m. on France Televisions stations since Jan. 5, 2009, was meant to go into effect completely by the end of 2011, when analog TV switched 100% to digital on the country's small screen.