It’s all a bit late in the day, but as Osborne Clarke’s Nick Johnson reports, the European Court of Justice has finally concluded, ten years on, that France’s Loi Evin banning direct or indirect TV advertising for alcoholic beverages, is not contrary to EC law.
Who: European Court of Justice, Bacardi, TF1, Darmon, Girosport, European Commission, UK and France
When: July 2004
It's all a bit late in the day, but the European Court of Justice has finally concluded, over ten years on, that France's Loi Evin is not contrary to EC law.
The Loi Evin (Law No 91-32 of 10 January 1991) effectively bans direct or indirect TV advertising for beverages whose alcoholic content exceeds 1.2%. The French authorities put in place in 1995 a Code of Conduct which sets out detailed rules as to how this ban applies to TV broadcasts of overseas sports events, where drinks branding may be visible on ad hoardings, players' shirts etc. (In essence, where events are bi-national (and therefore specifically aimed at a French audience), the French broadcaster must use all available means to screen out alcohol branding. However, where events are multinational, such an obligation would only arise if the French broadcaster has control over the filming conditions of the pictures that are broadcast.)
The ECJ was asked to look at these restrictions in the context of two cases: (1) The European Commission and the UK government argued that the requirements under the Loi Evin and the associated Code of Conduct are contrary to Article 59, as they entail restrictions on the freedom to provide advertising services and television broadcasting services. (2) Bacardi had sued TF1, Darmon and Girosport in the French courts for exerting pressure on foreign football clubs not to allow drinks advertising on their pitch-side hoardings. The French court referred the Article 59 question to the ECJ.
Although the ECJ found that the French prohibition on indirect TV advertising for alcohol does constitute a restriction on freedom to provide services, it was persuaded by the French government's argument that the ban is justified and proportionate for the protection of public health.
What this matters:
Alcohol advertisers and sponsors are an important potential source of revenue for sports teams, players, venue owners and governing bodies. The ECJ's decision maintains the status quo as regards the Loi Evin. With sport becoming increasingly internationalised, this legislation will now continue to impact on the extent to which drinks brands are willing or able to invest effectively in sport.