Noise of TV commercials to see FCC regulation under CALM Act

Television is about to get a bit quieter.

Beginning Thursday, television stations and cable providers are required to keep the volume of commercials at a level consistent with programming. No more blaring car ads or holiday shopping spots, unless providers want to incur the wrath of the Federal Communications Commission.

"Loud television commercials that make consumers run for the mute button or change the channel altogether will be a thing of the past," said Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., who sponsored the initial bill in the House.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., was a co-sponsor of the act. He told industry publication Broadcasting & Cable: "It's about time we turned down the volume on loud commercials that startle TV watchers into paying attention."

The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, or CALM, was passed in the House and Senate more than a year ago, but providers were given a grace period to update their equipment. Even so, some smaller or cash-strapped stations were allowed to petition for extensions.

Television stations will be responsible for monitoring the volume of national network and syndicated spots, as well as local ads. Cable operators also are responsible for monitoring the volume of local and national commercials.

Eshoo described "commercials blasting away at me at home" as a personal irritation, as well as one to her constituents. They are not alone; television stations have received complaints.

CALM gives stations and providers a bit of leeway in handling complaints. According to the new standards, one phone call or email isn't enough to warrant an investigation, although patterns of them will demand review.

Failure to meet these new modulation standards could result in fines.

The FCC is soliciting viewer auditing during the transition. To report loud commercials, call 888-225-5322 with information such as time and date of the commercial, description of the ad, plus station or network.

Information also can be mailed to the Federal Communications Commission, Consumer & Government Complaints Division, 445 12th Street SW, Washington, DC 20554.

It's difficult to argue against CALM, although there has been some online grumbling about the government controlling yet another aspect of everyday life.

People who make commercials are applauding the change.

"As much as I'm into advertising and that's what I live for, I think the CALM Act is a viable, fair one," said Melanie Querry, president of Beyond Spots & Dots, an ad agency.

"(But) I think some advertisers won't be happy with it because they believe louder commercials mean stronger viewership on TV."

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