The National Association of Broadcasters is seeking a settlement with the Justice Department to end the government's antitrust suit against the organization's advertising standards, which limit the amount of commercials a television station can broadcast each hour.

NAB officials say that settlement discussions began about two weeks ago, a little more than a month after a federal judge ruled that part of the advertising rules were illegal because they limited the number of products that could be promoted in a single commercial and thus were anticompetitive. U.S. District Court Judge Harold H. Greene set a trial for determining whether other parts of NAB rules--such as the time limit on the commercials--violated antitrust laws.

"Settlement discussions are going on, but they are at a very, very early stage," said Erwin Krasnow, the NAB's senior vice president and general counsel. However, Krasnow refused to reveal the details of the discussions, saying "it is inappropriate to say what we're think about and what the Justice Department is thinking about" while each side tries to reach a settlement.

A Justice Department lawyer familiar with the discussions said, however, that the settlement under consideration is a "reasonable" one. Some reports indicate that the NAB may agree to get rid of its rules that limit the minutes each television station may devote hourly to commercials. If so, other parts of the voluntary advertising code that govern political advertising and commercials for children would remain.