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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Ad Regulations Jump Major Hurdle

A hotly debated bill on advertising passed the crucial second reading in the State Duma on Friday.

The bill, which includes provisions that cut the airtime of television commercials, tighten outdoor advertising regulations and institute stricter rules for tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceutical advertising, may pass its third -- and final -- reading as early as Feb. 17, Interfax reported Friday.

"Millions of Russian consumers, who are tired of the intrusiveness and aggressiveness of some types of advertising, have been waiting for this law," Duma Deputy Vladimir Medinsky, a member of the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, said Friday, Interfax reported.

In contrast, advertisers and advertising agencies criticized the bill, whose second reading had been postponed five times. They said the bill would hurt private television networks and sports teams, if it were passed by both houses of parliament and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.

The new bill caps television ads at no more than 15 percent of airtime during a 24-hour period, with each block of commercials restricted to four minutes at most, Interfax reported. In addition, the bill restricts advertising for each hour to no more than 20 percent of airtime, which would significantly cut the volume of prime-time television ads. A provision in the bill tightens these restrictions further beginning in 2008, the news agency said.

"Why must the state get involved? Viewers can vote with their feet if they are annoyed by commercials: They can just switch the channel," Vladimir Yevstafiyev, vice president of the Association of Communications Agencies of Russia, said by telephone on Friday.

Unlike state channels, private channels such as STS and Ren-TV do not receive government subsidies, so they are fully dependent on advertising money, said Igor Mishin, vice president of the National Association of Television and Radio Broadcasters.

Outdoor advertising would also be restricted by the bill, which bans ads on road signs, Interfax reported. "Ads on road signs are widely used, so this provision would cost millions of dollars for outdoor advertising companies," said Andrei Beryozkin, head of the outdoor advertising committee at the Association of Communications Agencies of Russia.

The bill stipulates that outdoor advertising space be used exclusively for advertisements and leaves the right to take down ads that break this provision in the hands of municipal authorities, Interfax reported.

The bill also bans children from starring in alcohol, tobacco, beer and gambling ads, while it prohibits both well-known public figures and people posing as doctors from advertising medicines and health supplements. The bill also closes a loophole in legislation that had allowed alcohol producers to advertise their products under the guise of mineral water and other nonalcoholic beverages.

Public places, including stadiums, would be off-limits for beer advertising under the bill -- a rule that Vyacheslav Mamontov of the Beer Union said would hurt Russia sports. It will discourage brewers from sponsoring sporting events, he said.