Russia Shoehorns Restrictive Ad Bill Through Duma

13 February 2006

Friday saw a chill descend on Russia's advertising industry - and it had nothing to do with the minus 30 degrees temperature in Red Square.

On that day the State Duma passed the crucial second reading of a controversial new bill that will severely restrict advertising across a range of media.

And the politicos, for once, aren't dragging their feet. The bill could receive formal assent as early as Friday, reports news agency Interfax.

Among the bill's provisions are the reduction of TV advertising airtime, further restrictions on outdoor advertising, and the introduction of additional controls on tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceutical advertising.

Whoops pro-Kremlin Duma deputy Vladimir Medinsky: "Millions of Russian consumers, who are tired of the intrusiveness and aggressiveness of some types of advertising, have been waiting for this law."

Predictably, Russia's burgeoning ad industry is less enthused. "Why must the state get involved? Viewers can vote with their feet if they are annoyed by commercials: They can just switch the channel," plaintively asks Vladimir Yevstafiyev, vp of the Association of Communications Agencies of Russia.

Advertisers and agencies say the bill will damage privately-owned television networks and sports teams, if it is passed by both houses of parliament and signed into law.

Worst affected will be commercial TV channels such as STS and Ren-TV, which unlike their state-owned rivals, receive no government subsidies and are totally dependent on advertising revenues, says Igor Mishin, vp of the National Association of Television and Radio Broadcasters.

The outdoor industry is similarly fearful. "Ads on road signs are widely used, so this provision would cost millions of dollars for outdoor advertising companies," worries Andrei Beryozkin, head of the outdoor advertising committee at the Association of Communications Agencies of Russia.

The new legislation also clamps down on the use of children in ads promoting alcohol, tobacco, beer and gambling. In addition it forbids celebrities and sports stars - as well as actors posing as doctors - from advertising medicines and health supplements.

Data sourced from Moscow; additional content by WARC staff