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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Votes to Ban Prime-Time Beer Ads

The State Duma on Friday voted overwhelmingly to crack down on beer advertising, including prohibiting the use of images of people or animals and banning television commercials altogether between 5 and 10 p.m.

Ignoring Kremlin opposition, deputies passed amendments to the law on advertising in the crucial second reading by a margin of 231 to 24.

In addition to the blanket ban on prime-time television, the amendments would also prohibit brewers from targeting teenagers and using famous people in their TV and radio campaigns. They would also make it illegal for an ad to suggest that beer can help people raise their social status, improve their physical or emotional condition, or quench thirst.

Industry players and analysts say that if eventually signed into law by President Vladimir Putin, the amendments would deal a serious blow to two of Russia's fastest-growing industries -- beer and advertising. Brewers accounted for nearly a quarter of all television ad revenues last year, spending an estimated $400 million.

While Putin's personal position is unclear, his administration is lobbying energetically against the amendments, agreeing with the Russian Union of Brewers that they would not achieve what lawmakers essentially want, which is to curtail the amount of alcohol the nation -- especially teenagers -- consumes.

Government spokesman Alexei Volin told radio station Ekho Moskvy on Friday that banning beer ads on television in the evening would only result in more ads being shown in the morning and during the day.

Volin also said the amendments would lead to an increase in vodka consumption, which has been decreasing recently, in part because it can no longer be advertised on television at all.

The government's representative in the Duma, Andrei Loginov, told lawmakers that the recent boom of beer ads on television could actually be considered a positive development in the sense that it was responsible for luring young people away from using stronger alcohol like vodka.

Brewers' union spokesman Vyacheslav Mamontov said that while limiting television ads would hurt all brewers, those only now preparing to enter the market would be hit the hardest.

"The amendments prohibiting the use of images of people and animals, even animated ones, would have a negative impact on many brewers who have built their brands on such images," said Mamontov.

Andrei Fedotov, an analyst at RPRG, which tracks advertising trends, said the amendments could be disastrous for the industry.

"Not all brewers will be willing to air their commercials in the daytime or late in the evening, since the audience is small or specific," he said. "Therefore, the television industry, which is the main advertising medium for beer, will be [hit hard]."

The Omsk region's legislative assembly first submitted to the Duma an amendment to ban beer commercials on television altogether in October. Changes to that proposal and other amendments to the law on advertising were then worked out by deputies after consulting with brewers and advertisers. The amendments passed in the first reading in April.

Volin said he hoped deputies would come to their senses and "bury it" in the third reading, a date for which has not been set. If the bill is passed, however, it would then go to the Federation Council for approval and then it would be up to the president to either sign it into law or veto it.