Since mid-2019, the French government has been engaged in a process to reform the rules applying to the audiovisual sector.
The current legislation is from the late 1980s (the Law on freedom of communication, also known as “Leotard Law”, was passed on 30 September 1986). However, the French audiovisual landscape has changed and the current legislation is no longer appropriate.
The reform process aims to help restore a fairer balance between audiovisual and internet content providers by making television advertising rules more flexible. To this end, Decree No. 2020-983 was published and entered into force on 7 August 2020, following its publication in the Official Gazette of the French Republic (Journal Officiel de la République Française).
This is one of the first measures adopted as part of the audiovisual reform. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the calendar for the adoption of the audiovisual reform was disrupted and most of the measures scheduled to be implemented before the summer were postponed. While the decree authorises addressable advertising and advertising for cinema on television, it doesn't include all the changes initially proposed in the first draft decree submitted for public consultation in December 2019.
Addressable TV advertising authorisation
Before the entry into force of Decree n°2020-983 of 5 August 2020, addressable TV advertising was prohibited in France, subject to certain limited exceptions. In this respect, Article 13 of Decree No. 92-280 of 27 March 1992 provided that "advertising messages must be broadcast simultaneously throughout the service area".
The decree removes this general prohibition. This measure was eagerly awaited in the advertising industry. Television channels can now broadcast targeted advertising messages depending, for example, on the geographical area or profile of TV viewers. However, the decree defines some limitations and exceptions to this authorisation:
- Addressable TV advertising is still prohibited immediately before, during and immediately after children’s programs.
- Targeted advertising messages shall not include indication by the advertiser of an address or explicit local identification, except for broadcasters which are under the legal obligation to broadcast regional programs.
- Targeted advertising messages must be identified as such in an appropriate manner.
Furthermore, targeted TV advertising shall be limited in time:
- The duration of targeted advertising shall never exceed six minutes per clock hour.
- The duration of targeted advertising shall not exceed a daily average of two minutes per hour over all programming periods, during which such broadcasting is permitted for publishers whose services are broadcast by terrestrial Hertzian over an area with a population of more than 10 million inhabitants. French national TNT channels are concerned.
- The duration of targeted advertising shall not exceed a daily average of four minutes per hour over all programming periods, during which such broadcasting is permitted for publishers whose services are distributed by networks that don't use frequencies assigned by the French Audiovisual Council (Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel). This also concerns publishers whose services are broadcast by terrestrial Hertzian over a geographical area with a population of less than or equal to 10 million inhabitants.
Two years after the entry into force of the decree, the government shall publish a report assessing the impact of the authorisation of addressable TV advertising on radio stations, print media and local televisions.
Advertising for cinema on television authorisation
Article 3 of the decree creates a trial phase of 18 months during which TV advertising for cinema is allowed as an exception to the principle of prohibition laid down in Article 15-1 of the Decree of 27 March 1992.
The draft decree submitted for public consultation in December 2019 included some quotas regarding the broadcasting of advertising messages for European and arthouse films. However, these quotas have not retained in the final version of the decree.
The government will publish a report assessing the impact of the reform on the film industry, as well as on radio stations, print media and billboard industry. This will help evaluate the opportunity to maintain the regime at the end of the trial phase. The report will also assess the diversity of cinematographic works that were advertised, in particular regarding their production budget, language, and, in the case of French films, the proportion of pre-financed films. It will also include an assessment of the promotional practices used by advertisers.