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(Aug. 24, 2001) ROME -- Italy's Telecommunications Authority has released a series of laws governing TV advertising that will significantly limit advertising time during key sporting events and even children's cartoon programs.

The new rules, for example, state that during sports coverage the break between the end of one ad series and the beginning of the next must be separated by at least 20 minutes -- meaning that broadcasting ads at both ends of the 15-minute halftime break during soccer games will become illegal. Additionally, ads cannot be shown during play itself -- a common practice in events with no official break like Formula One championships or bicycle races, both very popular in Italy. Until now, ads were shown during uneventful parts of the races.

Even cartoons are affected by the new rules. Regulations aimed at protecting children from consumer pressure allow advertising to be shown only between cartoon programs and not during breaks in the programming.

"The changes are made in the best interests of the viewer [who watches] to see the event or programming, and not the advertising," a statement from the authority said.

For their part, the few ad buyers and TV network officials working during the traditional August holiday break said they are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the new rules.

"We will most likely see these new rules enforced in a flexible way so that the ends the authority wants are observed without resulting in drastic reductions in ad revenue for the networks," said one official with state broadcaster RAI. -- Eric J. Lyman

Copyright August 2001, Crain Communications Inc.

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