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New TV Ad Rules Come into Force

New regulations will come into force from January 1, 2004 which will hopefully relieve TV viewers from long and sometimes annoying ads during their prime-time favorite programs.

A new regulation, which also covers radio advertising, will also prevent the broadcasting of ads for products such as sanitary napkins and medicine for hemorrhoids and athlete's foot during dinnertime, as some viewers may consider them to be "offensive."

Cutting TV programs into several parts and broadcasting advertisements between them will also be restricted, in order to ensure the integrity of TV programs, the regulation said.

The State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, which issued the regulation in September, has already set up a hotline (010-86091111) for viewers to report any violations of the regulation.

"At least it should be less annoying than before when we were interrupted from time to time by advertisements while watching TV," said retiree Gao Jinying, 64.

Although viewers stand to benefit from the new rules, some companies and their products will lose out.

Linda Tan, planning director with United Kingdom-based ZenithOptimedia China, said the new rule has influenced their strategy for promoting products produced by Xi'an-Janssen Pharmaceutical Ltd, which her company is represents.

Daktarin, a product treating fungal infections, is one of the products her company represents which will be banned from being shown during dinnertime.

She said that although her firm would continue to use TV in order to promote its products to the widest possible audience, it "will consider other media like newspapers to extend our reach to our target audience," she said.

The new regulation sets strict limits on the total length of ads allowed. For instance, the length of advertisements between 7 pm to 9 pm in each channel should be less than 9 minutes, or 15 per cent of the whole program's length.

After the regulation was announced, many TV stations have soon started to devise strategies to deal with the possible fall in their advertising incomes next year.

The revenue of broadcasting ads during these two hours can amount to up 70 per cent of many TV stations total advertising revenue, said an anonymous source in the business.

Many TV stations will increase their advertising rates in order to maintain their current incomes.

Earlier this month, Sichuan provincial TV station, half of whose annual advertisement revenue came from these two hours, announced that it would raise its advertising rates by an average of 30 per cent next year.

Insiders agreed that the former practice of TV stations' lowering prices to get more ad customers will be changed in the future, and improving the quality of TV programs is the only way to attract customers.

In this respect, the new regulation has in fact improved the advertising environment and would cut the number of people changing channels between programs, said some experts.

Statistics showed the total advertising income in China's radio and TV sector in the year 2002 was 25.3 billion yuan (US$3 billion), most of which came from the period between 6 pm to 10 pm.

(China Daily December 31, 2003)

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