BRUSSELS: Subject to ratification by the European Parliament, ministers of European Union member states this week agreed a partial liberalization of broadcasting regulations - among them the current ban on product placement.

The directive - Television Without Frontiers - continues to limit advertising to twelve minutes in every broadcast hour. However, as a concession to media owners and advertisers, commercials during movies can be shown at 30-minute intervals rather than 45 minutes as at present.

There is also an easing of the rules governing product placement, which will come into force after enactment of the new legislation.

However, the display of brand and company logos remains verboten. And placements will not be permitted in programs directed at children nor in news bulletins.

Clarifies EU media spokesman Martin Selmayr: "You'd be able to show James Bond driving a BMW car, but wouldn't be able to give undue prominence to the BMW logo."

The easing of the rules, even though minimal, will not please consumer organizations who lobbied vigorously against liberalization.

They may well counter-attack when the issue comes before parliament's Culture Committee in May 2007 when onlookers predict there will be a number of trade-offs.

But Finnish Minister of Transport and Communications Susanna Huovinen remains optimistic: "We have formulated a compromise which we hope everyone can accept."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff