The decision by French audiovisual watchdog Conseil Superieur de l'Audiovisuel (CSA) to lift the ban on the advertising of cinema-related web sites on television is causing an uproar among the French film production unions.

Four unions - films producers' associations SPI, SRF and UPA, and talent union ARP - have voiced their concern, seeing this deregulation as a way to sidestep the age-old ban on TV advertising for films in France.

The measure is temporary, set for an 18 month trial run. It is not limited to the cinema sector - it also affects publishing, press, music and chain retailing businesses.

Industry lobbies have long opposed TV advertising for films on the grounds that it would benefit big-budget titles at the expense of lower-budget productions.

The producers' unions view the CSA decision as a very devious way to change the regulations, although they admit that the issue is currently being debated.

'A majority of professionals seem to be ready to consider lifting the ban,' said ARP's delegate general Pascal Rogard. 'But it has to be subject to compensatory measures in order to protect cultural diversity.'