Turning Down the Volume on TV Ads

Local representative fighting back against loud commercials

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Loud commercials could become a thing of the past.

    In this age of Tivo and multitasking, advertisers have resorted to blasting-out speakers trying to get our attention.

    You know the drill. You're relaxing on the couch enjoying "The Office," when all of a sudden the loudness of a commercial break sends you scrambling to find the mute button as if your life depended on it.

    A U.S. bill sponsored by a Bay Area congresswoman could finally put an end to the volume madness, the Wall Street Journal reports.

    The Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation Act, or CALM for short, was inspired by a set of rules developed by the United Nations last year. The U.S. hasn't updated its rules since 1984.

    Right now, ads can't be louder than the peak volume of the show they interrupt. But the peak is often an isolated moment, such as a gunshot, which is much louder than the average volume of the show.

    Advertisers know this and have been cranking it up so much that the entire commercial is barely softer than the show's loudest peak, which can be very startling.

    "Isn't it the most annoying thing in the whole world?" Federal Communications Commission spokeswoman Jen Howard told the Journal. "It drives my husband crazy—I mean he already hates TV, and he's like, 'Why is the TV so loud?'"

    The FCC received 132,416 complaints about electronic broadcast issues in the first quarter of this year. Most of them were for loud ads.

    Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo is the key force behind the bill. She represents the state's 14th congressional district, located between San Francisco, San Jose and Santa Cruz.

    After 18 years in Congress, Eshoo said the bill is the most popular thing she's done.

    "If I'd saved 50 million children from some malady, people would not have the interest that they have in this," she said.

    The House is expected to vote on the CALM Act later this week. Hopefully it has as many frustrated TV fans as the Senate, which unanimously approved the act back in September.