Mr. Chirac must now step quickly into another new role as well-president of the European Union, a rotating position that will end this summer when Spain takes over the job for six months.
Advertising lobbyists in Brussels are waiting for the European Commission-the executive body of the EU-to publish the proposed revisions to the 1989 "TV Without Frontiers" broadcasting directive. Although the directive has been adopted by the EC and the revisions are known to the public, it hasn't been officially published or translated into the EU's 11 different languages.
Until then, the directive cannot be sent to the European Parliament and subsequently the Council of Ministers for final approval.
"It is a clear sign to us that the Commission is holding back," said Anthony Arke, director of external relations for the European Association of Advertising Agencies. "I think they are worried the Parliament will try to add more restrictions and then the Commission will have the entire media industry-broadcasters, producers, advertisers and agencies-angry with them. In this form, there is no question but that the directive will be blocked over the issue of banning tobacco from teleshopping spots if nothing else."
The ad industry is relieved that legislation regarding dedicated home-shopping channels has been excluded from the revised directive. It will instead be covered separately under new-media services legislation.
But the industry was disappointed by the Commission's revisions regarding teleshopping spots and channels, still under the TV directive. The Commission banned the sale of tobacco on teleshopping and similarly applied the same ad rules for alcoholic beverages.
"In the Commission's mind," said the EAAA's Mr. Arke, "teleshopping is still a new advertising form instead of what it really is-electronic retailing."
The revised directive maintains the current allotted time allowed for TV ads-15% of daily transmission time-but allows for it to be raised to 20% with "new forms of advertising," such as teleshopping spots. "In other words, teleshopping spots are allowed during ad breaks," Mr. Arke said, "but the directive says nothing about ads being allowed on teleshopping programs," which can run up to three hours a day.
The long-blocked Directive on Tobacco Advertising-which would essentially ban all forms of advertising for tobacco products throughout the EU-could be back in the spotlight again if the new French Minister of Public Health, Dr. Elizabeth Hubert, as well as the new EU member states decide to reopen the debate.
"[Mr.] Chirac's new health minister could get it back on the agenda," Mr. Arke explained. "As a doctor she is anti-smoking, but that does not necessarily mean that politically she wants to ban all tobacco advertising in the EU. [Mr.] Chirac voted against banning tobacco advertising."