A CALMing affect

New commercial volume rule a welcome respite
Dec. 17, 2012 @ 12:01 AM

You may have noticed you haven’t been reaching for the remote control as often over the last few days the moment a commercial break starts up.

That’s because on Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission began barring broadcasters and pay TV providers from airing excessively loud commercials. Ads must now maintain the “same average volume” as the programs they accompany. That means you should no longer have to worry about those annoyingly loud commercials blasting out at you after a calm moment in a television show or movie.

The law has been in the works for a couple of years after the FCC adopted the rule in 2010. It gave broadcasters and pay TV providers more than a year to work out their plans for the switch. The rule came about after repeated complaints to the FCC about the decible-hiking commercials. Before the 2010 ruling the FCC chief said they had received about 6,000 complaints.

Congressional legislation allowed for the change in the FCC ruling. The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation, or CALM, Act, was authored by California Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo. The law had wide bipartisan support, passing unanimously in the Senate and House by a voice vote.

Advertisers and programmers seemed to be under the impression the loud commercials would draw the attention of viewers. However, the higher volume most likely led more viewers to hit the mute button or change the channel than watch or listen to the commercial.

Programmers stepped up to the plate with few arguments. At its passing, the National Association of Broadcasters, a trade group representing commercial television and radio stations, expressed a willingness to encourage its members to go along with the new rules.

“We think the FCC struck the right balance in implementing the CALM Act, and look forward to working with them,” said NAB Executive Vice President of Communications Dennis Wharton, was reported as saying at the time.

We applaud the change and thank broadcasters and programmers who agreed to the new rule. Enjoy the CALM.