BRUSSELS: After 18 months of legislative process and politicking, the European Union has finally agreed to significant changes in broadcasting rules for member nations under its Television without Frontiers directive.

TV producers and advertisers will be delighted with the loosening of product placement regulations to bring them more closely in line with their US counterparts. The changes will also allow more commercials to be shown during programs.

The relaxation of product placement comes with strings attached: products must not be too prominent and must come with repeated disclaimers to viewers; they are also banned from children's programs, news programs and documentaries.

Lobbyists' joy will, however, be tempered by disappointment that the EU has decided to leave almost untouched the emerging audio visual industry - namely services made possible by the internet.

Traditional broadcasters argued that they need a level paying field to remain competitive, and without regulation of such popular website as Google's video sharing phenomenon, YouTube, they would be sorely disadvantaged.

Comments Ross Biggam, director general of the Association of Commercial Television in Europe: "We're nervous that this legislation can't keep up with the fast pace of technological advancement."

The European Parliament will formally vote on the directive's revisions later this year and has pledged to approve them. National governments will have two years to implement their enforcement.

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