French TV and radio stations can tweet as much as they like, but must stop telling people to consult them on Twitter and Facebook, which amounts to advertising for those sites, France's media regulator has said.
Media usage of mini-messaging via social networking sites has mushroomed with France's frenzied coverage of the arrest of former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn in New York on attempted rape charges, but the CSA media industry regulator is warning such covert advertising is against the law.
In a world where global communication has taken yet another leap via social networks, the media regulator's response fuelled a debate that painted France as stuck in a time-warp.
"You cannot say, ‘look us up on Facebook,' or, ‘Look us up on Twitter,' What we advise people to say is: ‘Look us up on the social networks' — because Facebook and Twitter are commercial brands," CSA spokeswoman Christine Kelly told Reuters.
Banned in France
Kelly, a former journalist, explained in several radio interviews this week that covert advertising, visible or audible references to branded products outside of dedicated advertising periods, has been banned in France since 1992.
She said radio and TV stations which refer their audiences to Twitter and Facebook by name are breaching that law and risk fines if they fail to comply. They should stick to telling people to check their social networking pages, without referring by name to the two giants in that domain, she said.
The warning comes as one of France's most widely consulted dictionaries released a new edition including the word ‘tweet.'