France will allow cinemas to install phone jammers

Film screenings and theater performances in France may soon be free from the unwanted interruption of ringing cell phones, following a decision Friday by the French Minister of Industry.

Patrick Devedjian signed into law a provision allowing cinema and theatre owners to install cell-phone jammers to prevent their customers from making or receiving calls during performances. The change, proposed by the French telecommunications regulator, will take effect once it is published in the Journal Officiel, the French paper of record.

Would-be jammers must take care not to disrupt calls outside the auditorium, and not to interfere with the ability to make emergency calls.

The French cinema industry has been calling for the right to jam cell phones for years, the French Ministry of Industry, Economy and Finance said in a statement. Adding to mounting government and industry rhetoric against the copying of films and music, it said the move showed Devedjian's support for cinemas, which it called "the industry's trump card against the rising threat of piracy."

A survey conducted by French market research company TNS Sofres in 2002, when the ART announced a public consultation on jammers, found that 72 percent of French people questioned were strongly in favor of mobile phone jammers in theaters. The proportion in favor was the same for phone owners and non-owners alike, while among regular cinema- and theater-goers, the proportion in favor of jammers was slightly higher.

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Peter Sayer

IDG News Service
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