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FCC acts to quiet blaring TV commercials

U.S. communications regulators cracked down on excessively loud TV commercials on Tuesday, implementing a bill passed last year to quiet commercials to the same volume as the programs they accompany.

The Federal Communications Commission has been fielding viewer complaints about loud commercials almost as long as commercial television has existed, the agency said.

The commission voted unanimously to require TV stations and cable and satellite operators to ensure that the average volume of a commercial does not exceed the average volume of the programming around it.

Commercials for OxiClean stain remover, ShamWow towels and HeadOn pain reliever "will never be the same," FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell said at the agency's open meeting.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn added that the agency's latest rulemaking will put an end to the "frightening decibel levels that resulted in considerable alarm, anger and spilt popcorn."

The order adopted on Tuesday implements the CALM Act, authored by Representative Anna Eshoo and signed into law last December.

The California Democrat told Reuters her idea for the bill started after "being subjected to the blast of the high volume of advertisements" while watching a football game with family.

After discovering that loud commercials had been the top complaint to the FCC by consumers for decades, Eshoo said she drew up the bill, never anticipating it would garner such an overwhelming response from consumers and fellow lawmakers.

"While this certainly doesn't resolve the huge challenges that are facing the country ... we may get some peace and quiet in households across the country," she said, adding that the FCC's action came on her birthday.

The new FCC rules enacting the CALM Act will go into effect in a year, giving TV providers until Dec. 13, 2012, to comply.

Using certain equipment and getting certifications from distributors for ads imbedded into programming will satisfy compliance requirements.

Larger operators will have to perform annual spot-checks of commercials for two years, but smaller operators will only have to monitor commercials if a pattern of complaints specific to their station emerges.

It marks the first time the FCC has attempted to regulate the loudness of commercials. The limitations of analog television made it too difficult previously, but the emergence of digital TV technology now makes it feasible.

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