TV advertisers have a year to turn volume down

The Federal Communications Commission has given television stations, cable operators and other multichannel video programming distributors one year to comply with new rules limiting the volume of advertisements under a Bay Area House member’s law.

No, it’s not your imagination – those ads are louder than the shows they interrupt. To forbid this, Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, authored the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act, a Senate version of which passed the Senate unanimously in September 2010 and passed the House on a voice vote three months later and was signed into law by President Barack Obama a year ago this Thursday.

Eshoo since then has been working with the FCC to ensure that the rules implementing the new law are fair. Those rules were approved today.

“I’m proud to have led the charge to pass the CALM Act, which will give consumers the relief they’ve clamored for. TV stations now have the responsibility to turn down the volume on excessively loud commercials, and it’s about time,” Eshoo said in a news release. “The law I wrote is simple – the volume of television commercials cannot be louder than regular programming. Households across the country will soon get the relief they deserve from the annoyance of blaringly loud television commercials.”

Eshoo’s office said loud commercials have been a top consumer complaint for decades, and are listed as such in 21 of the FCC’s 25 quarterly reports between 2002 and 2009. A 2009 Harris poll found 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. Before the CALM Act, the official FCC policy recommended that consumers mute commercials if they find them too strident.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.