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TV commercial volumes get turned down today

No, you’re not going deaf – a new law taking effect today turns down the volume on television commercials.

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, and U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., held a news conference this morning on Capitol Hill to highlight the implementation today of the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act, which requires broadcast, cable, satellite and other video providers to keep the volume of commercials at a level consistent with the rest of their programming.

“Earsplitting television ads have jolted and annoyed viewers for decades,” Eshoo, the law’s original author, said in a news release. “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.”

National Association of Broadcasters President and CEO Gordon Smith said broadcasters have taken the lead in addressing the issue’s technical challenges, and National Cable and Telecommunications Association President and CEO Michael Powell thanked Eshoo and Whitehouse “for enacting sensible legislation that will improve the consumer TV experience. Our industry will continue to work closely with the FCC and the entire TV ecosystem to prevent loud commercials from being a disruption.”

Loud commercials have been a top consumer complaint to the Federal Communications Commission 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. Before this law, the official FCC policy recommended that consumers mute commercials if they found them to be excessively strident.

President Obama signed Eshoo’s legislation into law in December 2010, and the FCC passed its final rules implementing the law in December 2011. An FCC consumer guide to the new provisions of the CALM Act can be found here.

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.

  • Elwood

    That’s why remotes have a “mute” button.

  • John W

    Hope the compression technology used to accomplish this doesn’t degrade the TV audio quality. Dialog on some TV shows is hard enough to understand already.

  • Elwood

    Here ya go, John!

    http://tinyurl.com/d2lgel6

  • John W

    Funny! Try cable shows such as Sons of Anarchy (a Northern California biker version of the Sopranos) and you’ll see, I mean hear what I mean.