Alcohol ad ban under threat

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Norway has a ban on advertising beer, wine and spirits in order to keep consumption down. Such ads will still be banned within Norway, but television programs in Norwegian sent from abroad, such as those on TV3, may soon be free to air alcohol advertising.

In 2007, the EU passed a directive about the audio-visual media which among other things prohibits member countries from banning alcohol advertising if the program is sent from another country. Even though Norway isn’t a member of the EU, it remains bound by the European Economic Area (EEA/EØS) agreement that also is subject to the directive. Norwegian authorities have kept working for an exemption, writes newspaper Aftenposten, but haven’t succeeded.

That means the total Norwegian ban on alcohol advertising on TV may soon be broken. In a meeting with the EU Commission two weeks ago, Norway’s ambassador to the EU was instructed to implement the directive forthwith, rejecting any special exemptions. The commission also reportedly issued a strong verbal rebuke, something which occurs only rarely.

“This has been an extremely difficult case all along,” Erik Lahnstein, state secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Aftenposten. “The government now has to work out how to respond, given the strongly worded reaction from the commission. The question is whether we modify our position or risk defeat.”

He adds that several EU members also wanted similar exemptions, but came to an agreement on the directive after long negotiations.

“In this situation it will be difficult to achieve an exemption for Norway,” says Lahnstein. The EEA treaty gives the right of veto to signatories, but this right has never been exercised.

Anti-alcohol organizations and the Christian Democrats party have deplored any chink in defensive policies and regulations aimed at keeping Norway’s alcohol comsumption among the lowest in Europe. All the political parties in Parliament, with the exception of the conservative Progress Party, also want to maintain a full ban on alcohol advertising.

Views and News from Norway/Sven Goll
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