October 9, 2009

CALM Act to Ban Blaring Commercials

Ever wonder why on some channels some commercials are significantly louder than the program you were watching? It turns out the increased volume is a purposeful strategy from advertisers to get you to pay attention to what they're selling.

Now a bill has been approved in the US government to prohibit advertisers from audibly blasting you with their messages. From Broadcasting & Cable:

By a voice vote, the committee passed the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act, backed by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), and referred it to the full Energy & Commerce Committee.

Eshoo said the bill premise was simple: "To make the volume of commercials and programming uniform so that spikes in volume do not affect the consumer's ability to control sound." Eshoo said that ad volume spikes had "endangered hearing for decades." She also said legislative spouses had been urging their husbands or wives to sign on as co-sponsors. "I think they are all tired of getting blasted out of their easy chairs or off their exercise equipment due to these ridiculously loud commercials."

As reported by B&C, the bill was modified from the original form to give the broadcast and cable industry more time to implement the technology and to make an industry-backed engineering standard the rules for the road.

The bill gives the FCC a year to adopt a commercial volume standard being produced by the the Advanced Television Systems Committee, then gives the industry a year after that to purchase and install the necessary equipment. It also includes up to two, one-year waivers for financial hardship. "Small stations and cable operators certainly should be able to comply within three years," Eshoo said, "plus the amount of time it takes for the FCC to complete and release the rules." But she said there would not be an "open ended" waiver process that drags on.

Looks like it will be awhile before we see any actual changes, but who knew that the gov't was looking to stop something that has been a constant nuisance to so many people.

Read the full story from Broadcasting & Cable here.