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Tiv Taam is fighting hard over public opinion in advance of a show by consumer affairs T.V. show Kolbotek, to be aired Sunday, showing cats roaming one of its storerooms, helping themselves to tasty things. The chain says it's a sting.

The chain is running a daily campaign in newspapers and on television, at the cost of about $500,000, nearly a quarter of its $2 million annual PR budget. The Second Broadcasting Authority initially refused Tiv Taam's request to air an ad on the issue, saying that it was excessively aggressive and included a tongue-lashing of Kolbotek. Tiv Taam agreed to alter the ad, whose first run is due to be broadcast on Tuesday.

Sources close to Tiv Taam confirmed: "Unfortunately, the Second Broadcasting Authority refuses to air the ad with our real, true message. We have been forced to compromise in order to ensure that the public is aware of our position." In addition to television ads, Tiv Taam began running double paged ads in the Maariv newspaper, with the leading campaign slogan implying that the harsh findings aired on Kolbotek against the supermarket chain are based on orchestrated incidents designed to denigrate the company. But senior sources in the retail sector have pointedly asked why Tiv Taam has not turned to the police if the firm is so confident of its evidence that the Kolbotek report is based on a sting.

Tiv Taam emphasized that its internal investigation into the matter had raised suspicions that certain previously fired, and present, employees had vandalized its property and orchestrated the incident Kolbotek taped.

Tiv Taam claims that no complaint had been filed with the police because its strategy against Kolbotek had been defined as a battle for public opinion.

"It is impossible to get an injunction for a broadcast, as the principal of free expression is paramount" said a source close to the company. "We have therefore decided that the purpose of our battle with Kolbotek is to plant doubt in the public's mind as to what they are seeing on the show. Anyone watching the show will keep in mind that everything they are seeing may be an orchestration."