Saturday, June 13, 2009
FCC Wants To Restrict Loud TV Commercials
I'm sitting in my barcalounger eating Cheese Doodles and watching the "NCIS" marathon on the USA channel. It's Saturday, and I'm taking the day off. I don't want to be distracted by having to make decisions or pay bills on the weekend. But now, as another commercial comes on, I'm thinking to myself, "enough already, there ought to be a law." I reach for the remote to turn down the volume. Is it just me, or is the commercial way louder than the regular programming? Yes and no. It seems broadcasters are allowed to air commercials at a volume equal to the peak volume of the program during which they play. For instance, there's a loud bomb blast in an episode of our favorite show. All the commercials during that program can reach that level. In other words, the commercial is constantly running at the loudest volume possible, while the actual show balances the explosions with dialogue at a natural level. The shows have a realistic pattern of volume that ranges from whispering to loud dialogue to loud blasts, while the commercials constantly blare at the peak volume. This issue has confounded TV viewers for years, and is now being investigated by the U.S. Congress, which this week heard from experts on the subject while considering HR 1084, the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM). The appropriately named CALM Act would require the FCC to restrict television commercial volume to the average sound level of the program that it airs on, as opposed to the program's peak volume. As I keep having to reach for the remote during each commercial interruption, I'm comforted by the fact that the day of the ear-blasting announcements for male enhancement products, AARP membership and bipolar medication may be coming to an end. Soon there could be a law.