Russian Media Must Spell Out Advertising - or Else

03 July 2006

Russian media regulators have paved the way to confusion with a new law compelling all radio and TV broadcasts, plus nearly all newspapers and magazines, to make it clear to their audiences that an ad is an ad.

The new rules, which may or may not apply to foreign brodcasters, have been imposed by the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service. They also require beer ads to be accompanied by a warning about excessive drinking, although a ban on alcohol ads in print media will be lifted.

In addition, advertising on TV will be cut to a maximum of 15% of all broadcasting time, while a ban on advertising during children's programs will be swept away.

Questions have now been raised among media owners about how the law will be enforced and compliance monitored.

If broadcasts are not specifically intended for a Russian audience, the agency somewhat enigmatically decrees that compliance of foreign broadcasters with the new rules will be the responsibility of the local rebroadcaster.

Admits Werner Schopff at CNN's Russian ad unit:"I didn't know the law ... so I will ask my legal department to look into this in order to see if CNN gets affected."

Newspapers Kommersant and Izvestia say they plan to be selective in heeding the law. Comments Georgy Ivanov, head of the former's legal department: "We see it as repeating the old law, which said editorial content must be distinguishable from advertising."

He adds that advertisements which could be confused with editorial were already marked, but the newspaper would not begin marking ads that are clearly ads.

Data sourced from Moscow Times Online; additional content by WARC staff