FCC Moves To Eliminate Loud TV Commercials
December 14, 2011

FCC Moves To Eliminate Loud TV Commercials

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday passed regulations that require broadcasters and cable and satellite TV operators to put an end to one of the most annoying issues in the television age -- loud commercials.

The FCC adopted a Report and Order that implements the 2010 Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM act), in which it was given, for the first time, permission from Congress to address vociferous commercials.

The order, which goes into effect December 13, 2012, states: “commercials must have the same average volume as the programs they accompany,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement.

This is a “major step toward eliminating one of the most persistent problems of the television age -- loud commercials,” said the FCC. “While consumer complaints about loud commercials have diminished since 2009, we expect that these new rules will reduce loudness complaints still further.”

A Harris poll, conducted last year, found that 86 percent of people said TV commercials were louder than the shows themselves. “It is a problem that thousands of viewers have complained about, and we are doing something about it,” said Genachowski.

Normal listening levels average about 70 decibels for a typical TV broadcast, but can vary by as much as 20 decibels, between commercial and program.

To comply with the new rules, broadcasters can use audio processors to measure the loudness of a program over its entirety and adjust the volume of commercials accordingly, said Joe Snelson, vice president of the Society of Broadcast Engineers. The goal is to avoid an abrupt change in volume when a show goes to commercial break, he said.

The CALM act has already been adopted by some broadcasters and pay-TV providers.

A spokesman for DirecTV said the satellite provider is “ensuring that our commercial inserts are at the proper volume level and “¦ (we) are working with our programmers to be in compliance with the rules the FCC adopts.”

A Cox Communications spokesman said the cable broadcasting company will make sure that local ads and commercials on national networks “are compliant.”

“I never characterized this as saving the Union,” said Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-California, the original sponsor of the bill. “But consumers have been asking for it. We may not have peace in the world, but we may have more peaceful homes.”


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