France's film marketing and distribution sector could be in for a radical shake-up with a new aspect of the country's cultural exception coming under attack from the European Union (EU).

The European Commission, the EU's executive wing, last week asked the French government to justify its laws on television advertising, which currently prevent retailers and film distributors from buying TV airtime.

If the Commission does not get a satisfactory reply within two months it may ask France to scrap the law and can take it to the European Court if it fails to do so.

The rule, along with others such as state and TV funding of the arts, is one of many collectively known as the "cultural exception" which are enshrined in the GATT treaty.

France introduced the law in order that films be advertised in local newspapers and that indie distributors have the same chance as the deeper-pocketed majors.

But the Commission says that France is out of line with the rest of the EU and may be preventing the creation of a single market.

As it stands the law divides French distributors. Many - possibly a majority - fear that scrapping the rule would increase p&a costs. Others argue that they should be allowed to spend their marketing budgets how they wish, rather than be dictated by state-inspired market distortions.