RUSSIAN TV NET THREATENS BAN ON ADS

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MOSCOW-The announcement that Russia's largest TV network would stop carrying ads April 1 has sent ripples of concern worldwide-everywhere but here.

Accustomed to last-minute ad bans that often fall through or are ignored, the Russian industry was unimpressed with this latest attempt.

Insiders at Ostankino said the ban's real purpose is to let the network regain control of its own ad time from a consortium of private Russian ad agencies that had gradually taken it over. The ban, they said, is likely to last only two to three months.

A total ban like the one announced last week would deprive the nearly bankrupt network of millions of dollars in ad revenue. "I can't imagine how they would survive," said Sergei Koptev, Moscow director of D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, the country's largest Western ad agency.

Even if an Ostankino ban went in effect, advertisers could turn to Independent TV, a private network, or a second state-owned channel.

Of much more concern to local ad executives is a decree by President Boris Yelstin to ban all tobacco and alcohol ads, endangering an estimated $1 billion in spending annually.

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