CALM Act keeps sound level down on commercials
Many people may be watching new televisions today after they opened their Christmas presents, and perhaps they will notice TV commercials don’t seem quite as loud these days.
If so, you can credit an early Christmas gift from the Federal Communications Commission, via the U.S. Congress. The FCC in mid-December fully implemented the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act passed by Congress two years ago.
There is a reason that Congress and the FCC acted. Both have long been the recipient of complaints from TV viewers about overly loud commercials. The are the No. 1 complaint made to the FCC, with some 1,000 complaints and 5,000 inquiries since early 2008 alone.
The communications agency initially resisted the idea of trying to regulate the loudness of TV ads, saying that people have varying perceptions of loudness. They advised consumers to either lower the sound or mute the TV if necessary.
That wasn’t a satisfactory answer from some viewers who didn’t like having to frequently adjust the sound. The reality is they wanted to able to pick the sound level they desire and watch a program all the way through without adjusting it.
What the CALM Act does is require the commercials not go above the sound level of the program into which they are inserted. There are some exceptions. Waivers can be granted by the FCC to some stations that cannot afford the technology upgrade. Non-commercial stations also get a pass.
Still, this seems like a reasonable compromise. It allows advertisers to adequately get across their message — essential to paying for the programs and supporting TV operations — without unduly restricting them. It may even encourage more people to actually listen to the commercials.