A new bill will try to finally fix television commercials that are way, way louder than the programming

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Samantha Lee/Insider
  • Two members of Congress reintroduced a bill to make sure commercials aren't too loud.

  • The CALM Act was originally passed in 2010, but at the time, the FCC didn't have jurisdiction over streaming services.

  • The newly introduced act would make sure the FCC enforces the law and cover both TV and streaming services.

Sixty-nine years after the Federal Communications Commission received its first consumer complaints over loud commercials on television, and 13 years after Congress first attempted to regulate the issue, the two members of Congress who introduced it are back with an updated version of their original bill.

The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act of 2010 by Rep. Anna Eshoo and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse required that broadcasters and cable operators follow the A/85 standard that the Advanced Television Systems Committee approved, and empowered the FCC to enforce it.

On Thursday, the two introduced the CALM Modernization Act, which per a press release, "extends the CALM Act's prohibitions to all ad-supported streaming services to ensure that the volume of commercials on streaming services is not louder than regular programming."

The original CALM Act passed through the Senate unanimously and the House in a voice vote before it was signed by then-President Barack Obama. Eshoo said at the time it was the most popular bill she had introduced in Congress

And while the law worked — complaints about loud commercials initially dropped following the act's passage — data shows that complaints have increased in recent years as the FCC failed to regulate the volume.

In the four-month period between November 2020 and February 2021, the number of FCC complaints about loud commercials went up 140% compared to the same period a year prior. The A/85 standard required the average loudness of a commercial to be approximately as loud as the dialnorm, essentially the average audio level of a person talking in a show.

In a press release on Thursday, Whitehouse addressed the ongoing issue and said that "consumers are fed up with advertisers blaring TV commercials at disruptively high volumes because of a weak FCC enforcement regime and a loophole for streaming TV."

Rep. Eshoo, who came up with the idea of the original bill after getting interrupted at the dinner table by a loud commercial, echoed Whitehouse's statement and said "we're updating the legislation for the benefit of consumers who are tired of diving for the mute button at every commercial break, regardless of what platform they use."

After the original law was passed, large stations and providers were supposed to abide by a monitoring program for two years. If a problem was found, they were supposed to inform the FCC. As Insider found in 2021, "only two small stations asked for a waiver while they fixed issues they found. That is to say, the sum total of FCC enforcement on disproportionately loud commercials in the decade since the CALM Act has amounted to two letters — and no enforcement."

At the time of the original CALM Act's passage, there was no way for Congress or the FCC to regulate the volume of commercials on streaming websites as the commission didn't have jurisdiction over streaming services.

In addition to moderninizing the law by finally covering streaming services as well, the newly reintroduced CALM Act also ensures that the volume of commercials actually gets enforced by the FCC.




Read the original article on Business Insider