Farewell, Loud and Annoying TV Ads: The CALM Act Becomes the Law of the Land

Just when you thought Congress was utterly futile comes the implementation of the great bipartisan victory of our times.

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Just when you thought Congress was utterly useless, here comes one of the great bipartisan legislative victories of our time: They turned down the volume on commercials.

Since the 1960s, the Federal Communications Commission has been hearing complaints from television viewers that ads are too loud – way too loud. And the only way to fix this aural injustice, apparently, was an act of Congress. And why not? They don’t seem to be doing much else.

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While Madison Avenue may not admit it, it’s clear that many advertising professionals decided that if television ad spots were simply louder than the television shows they surrounded, we just might brush the potato chips off our shirt and pay attention. So for years advertisers took advantage of older sound metering equipment used by broadcast stations to crank ads up to 11. (Wired has a great graph comparing the volume of commercials to television programming, which is almost always well below the sound threshold unless there’s something like an explosion or gun shots appearing on-screen.) “The people who were creating the commercials learned how to exploit the meters and fly below the radar,” Thomas Lund, a development manager of Denmark’s TC Electronics, told The Los Angeles Times.

But one congresswoman had enough. Representative Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) introduced the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM), which passed both the House and the Senate — where the vote was unanimous — in 2010. President Obama signed it on December 15, 2010.

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The law, which goes into effect today, requires TV ads to be no louder than the programs that accompany them. The reason it’s taken two years to implement is largely technical: Broadcast stations and cable operators needed to upgrade their equipment to allow them to modify volume on the fly.

Surprisingly, advertisers didn’t put up much of a fight over the legislation, likely realizing how annoying their ads had become to basically everybody who owns a television. It’s not clear whether turning the sound down on ads will actually hurt ad awareness, but with more of us simply fast-forwarding through commercials on our DVRs, it probably won’t help, either.

With the issue of TV ad loudness out of the way, Congress can now move on to less pressing issues like the fiscal cliff.

11 comments
ananaki
ananaki

NOT A MOMENT TO SOON

HdCaesar
HdCaesar

Reminds me that television used to be free.  You just needed a tv and a set of rabbit ears.  There were still commercials to contend with butthere didn't seem to be as many of them.  Now we PAY for television and STILL have to put up with commercials....

JosephMateus
JosephMateus

Yes, the US Congress reminds me of a person who cleans his rear end before having a bowel movement, not after. Its about time Congress get their priorities strait.

Joseph Mateus

JosephMateus
JosephMateus

Please pardon me, your name is JOSH SANBURN, NOT "SANBURH". Please believe me, it was just an innocent spelling mistake. I know how you feel, I also get upset when somebody misspells my name.

Joseph Mateus

JosephMateus
JosephMateus

 Mr. Josh Sanburh,  you wrote above : quote > "With the issue of TV ad loudness out of the way, Congress can now move on to less pressing issues like the fiscal cliff." < unquote.  Mr. Josh Sanburh, I love your sarcasm !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I am laughing out loud !! Your sarcasm is most appropriate here. Keep up with the excellent work!

BruceS78
BruceS78

I hope the FCC enforces this better than the Do Not Call lists.  Not sure which agency enforces that but it is next to useless.  I have VOIP that allows be to Black List phone numbers, so they only get 1 or 2 calls be I black list them but I really feel for those people with regular phones.  Congress needs to provide agencies enough funding to enforce the laws they pass rather than creating more "Just another damn Act".

ChikuMisra
ChikuMisra

Does anyone else find it weird that out of all the tens of millions of people who read Time magazine online, only a handful of people ever comment on stories.  Maybe I am missing something, but that has always struck me as strange and kind of inexplicable.

ChikuMisra
ChikuMisra

Thank you, Congress!  You did a good and worthwhile thing.  It is indeed annoying as hell to be screamed at for no reason.  I had that experience for a solid dozen years of my life with a psychopathic lunatic and it's hard if not impossible to forget.  So I do love and cherish peace and quiet, and I am glad Congress realized how irritating and obnoxious some of those stupid ads are.  Finally Congress did something worthwhile.  Shocking, long overdue, but ultimately a valid basis for thanks.

AdamSmith1
AdamSmith1

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vstillwell
vstillwell

So, let me get this straight. Congress just passed a new regulation on business, and it was passed unanimously. Amazing.