France bans on-air mentions of Facebook and Twitter

French broadcast media are to be prevented from mentioning Facebook or Twitter on air – even to direct their viewers to their own sites.

The country’s broadcasting watchdog, the Conseil Superieur de l’Audiovisuel (CSA), has ruled that doing so would amount to covert advertising, breaching a law passed in 1992 prohibiting the promotion of brands during broadcasts.

“Why do regular promotion for a network that can raise billions of dollars like Facebook and not for another one that has a hard time making itself known?” Christine Kelly, a CSA spokeswoman explained to Agence France-Presse.

Broadcasters will still be able to mention the sites when they’re part of a news story – reporting the technology or financial news might be a little difficult otherwise.

But the ruling presents broadcasters with something of a problem. As in many countries, broadcasters frequently offer news updates via social networks such as Facebook or Twitter – and direct viewers on air to the sites by saying ‘Follow us on Twitter’, or the like.

But from now on, presenters won’t be able to do this: instead, they’ll have to refer simply to social media, leaving the viewers guessing as to where they might find what they’re after.

Some have suggested the ban shows signs of an anti-American bias, an attempt to reduce the dominance of the two US-owned sites – and have called for a US ban on the words ‘France’ and ‘French’ in retaliation. But France has long had a heavy hand when it comes to regulating the online world, most recently by tightening up legislation on copyright.