Congress Quiets Loud Ads With CALM Act


NEW YORK (MainStreet) - TV watchers might want to hear this: Congress passed a bill Thursday that will eliminate unnecessarily loud television commercials.

The House granted final approval in a voice vote to the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act. The bill, now on its way to President Obama for final approval, will prevent television advertisements from playing at a volume that is noticeably higher than the programs on air.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), said these types of commercials have been a problem for decades, citing that loud television commercials have also been listed as a top consumer complaint in 21 of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) last 25 quarterly reports.

“TV programs use a variety of sound levels to build dramatic effect. But advertisements have been neither subtle nor nuanced,” Eshoo said in a written statement. “Consumers will no longer have to experience being blasted at. It’s a simple fix to a huge nuisance.”

Eshoo said the FCC has been receiving complaints about the excess noise since the 1960s. Its traditional response had been to tell consumers to “mute” the television when they find a commercial particularly loud. But now if President Obama signs the CALM act into law, viewers won’t have to reach for their remote every time an ad for the Jitterbug cell phone or Grand Prospect Hall pops onscreen.  

Under the new law, the FCC would require that advertisers adopt industry technology which modulates sound levels and prevents overly loud commercials within one year.

The FCC will use best practice standards for broadcast commercial volume established in 2009 by the Advanced Television Systems Committee, a nonprofit that develops voluntary standards for digital television, to determine what commercials are considered overly loud. These industry standards, which would apply to all broadcast providers, including cable and satellite, would be imposed one year after that.

The bill does allow the FCC to issue a waiver to broadcast providers who can’t adopt the technology due to hardship or unforeseen circumstances.  

“Most Americans experience the frustration of abrasively loud television commercials, with advertisers grabbing for our attention through this intrusive practice,” said bill sponsor Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I). “While this is far from the biggest issue we face, it will mean one less daily annoyance in our lives.”

It’s an annoyance many television viewers will be happy to get rid of. Americans, after all, have shown time and time again that they abhor noise. You might recall Sun Chips pulling its noisy chips bags or those evil World Cup vuvuzuelas.

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