French ad ban still making waves

France’s Senate has started to examine the audiovisual law project whose major measure, the public service advertising ban, is already effective though any law is yet to be voted on.

While strikes are still disturbing France Télévisions’ programming, some left-wing senators left the hemicycle on Wednesday to protest against what they regard as an undemocratic process. Justifying the method, Minister of Culture Christine Albanel stressed that the partial prime-time ad ban seemed already to “be much appreciated by French people”. President Sarkozy is also said to have claimed that he “had won the public opinion battle.”

But the process is not even very much appreciated among the majority senators who feel they have been neglected and humiliated. This is a bad point for the government as the majority party UMP does not have an absolute majority to win the vote.

Centrist voices are essential to making the project pass. The centrists, who are asking for the licence fee to be raised by €2 are ready to fight about the way France Télévisions will be financed. For the French government, negotiations are under way before the final vote on January 15.

From the business point of view, the expected 8:35pm revolution did not occur and private networks have not yet made additional ad revenues. Since Monday, ratings and audiences shares have remained flatly the same as before, with audience shares very close to the networks’ averages.

TF1 led the first three evenings with audience shares comprising between 27.9% and 29.5%. France 2 performed well on Monday with 21% but fell back to 18% and 16.1% the following evenings. If three million more viewers were watching TV last Monday, the impact of the ad ban on viewers’ habits needs to be studied over a longer period.

According to studies, women would be more numerous watching TV at 8:35pm and the new schedules would satisfy better people living in cities under 100,000 inhabitants.

In terms of ad revenues, research company Yacast confirmed that announcers were less present last Monday both in TF1 and M6 ad slots.