Senate Votes to Turn Down Volume on TV Commercials

By: AP
By: AP

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Legislation to turn down the volume on those loud TV commercials that send couch potatoes diving for their remote controls looks like it'll soon become law.

The Senate unanimously passed a bill late Wednesday to require television stations and cable companies to keep commercials at the same volume as the programs they interrupt.

The House has passed similar legislation. Before it can become law, minor differences between the two versions have to be worked out when Congress returns to Washington after the Nov. 2 election.

Ever since television caught on in the 1950s, the Federal Communication Commission has been getting complaints about blaring commercials. But the FCC concluded in 1984 there was no fair way to write regulations controlling the "apparent loudness" of commercials. So it hasn't been regulating them.

Correcting sound levels is more complicated than using the remote control. The television shows and ads come from a variety of sources, from local businesses to syndicators.

Managing the transition between programs and ads without spoiling the artistic intent of the producers poses technical challenges and may require TV broadcasters to purchase new equipment. To address the issue, an industry organization recently produced guidelines on how to process, measure and transmit audio in a uniform way.

The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., requires the FCC to adopt those recommendations as regulations within a year and begin enforcing them a year later. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., is the driving force behind the bill in the House.

Its title is the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, or CALM.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a co-sponsor, said it's time to stop the use of loud commercials to startle viewers into paying attention. "TV viewers should be able to watch their favorite programs without fear of losing their hearing when the show goes to a commercial," he said.

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  • by Ricardo Location: Lansing on Oct 1, 2010 at 02:59 AM
    This is amusing. I don't know about everyone else, but my remote can either turn the volume down or mute the sound. I sure think the lawmakers have much more serious issues that need to be addressed.
  • by Anonymous on Sep 30, 2010 at 04:11 PM
    Good grief. While the volume is annoying, I can think of a whole lot of things more important. I don't like... reigning in overspending, the economy, work on the tax increases that are coming if they don't get off their butts and do something, the debacle called the new healthcare plan. Please... this is just infuriating!
  • by Anonymous on Sep 30, 2010 at 03:18 PM
    Good grief. It really is so sad that our elected representatives believe we as a nation are peopled with folks too stupid or inept to use the volume control on the remote or call the TV station to complain. Thank God we have our government to take care of us and protect us from the evil noisy commercial distributors!
  • by Anonymous on Sep 30, 2010 at 02:00 PM
    Will they do the same regulation about political ads? Media outlets should be able charge higher rates for the mud slinging ads.
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