Turn on your TV. Notice anything different?
Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, celebrated triumph Thursday as her Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act or CALM Act, took effect as of midnight, Her four-year crusade to enact the law banning loud commercials on TV began when she introduced the bill in 2008.
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) led passage in the Senate. The law requires broadcast, cable, satellite and other video providers to hold the volume of commercials at the same level as regular TV programming. The Federal Communications Commission warns that it uses averages, so some commercials may still sound too loud. The agency said it will rely on consumers filing complaints to enforce the rules.
“Earsplitting television ads have jolted and annoyed viewers for decades,” Eshoo said in a statement. “With this new law, loud TV commercials that make consumers run for the mute button or change the channel altogether will be a thing of the past.”
Whitehouse said, “While this is a small issue compared to the big challenges facing our nation, it is an unnecessary annoyance in the daily lives of many Americans, and I’m glad to have done something about it.”
The law has the support of the National Association of Broadcasters. NAB chief Gordon Smith, former GOP Senator from Oregon (there is a good life after the Senate). Michael Powell (remember him?), head of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association called the new law “sensible” and promised to “continue to work closely with the FCC and the entire TV ecosystem to prevent loud commercials from being a disruption.”
Eshoo’s office said loud commercials have been a top consumer complaint to the FCC “for decades and were listed as such in 21 of the FCC’s 25 quarterly reports between 2002 and 2009. According to a 2009 Harris poll, almost 90 percent of TV viewers are bothered by high commercial volumes, prompting 41 percent of viewers to turn down the volume, 22 percent to mute the TV, and 17 percent to change the channel altogether. Prior to Eshoo’s legislation, the official FCC policy recommended that consumers mute commercials if they found them to be excessively strident.
The CALM Act passed the Senate unanimously in 2010 and passed in the House passed in December 2010. Obama signed it into law that month, and the FCC took a year to issue a final rule last year, and gave the industry another year to implement them.