It’s been a long time coming. Finally, after 50 years of enduring nationwide noise pollution, the House passed a bill yesterday that would turn down the volume on loud television advertisements. There’s even a cutesy acronym slapped onto the act: Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation, or CALM.
We all know the story: You’re watching your favorite (late night) programming, even perhaps drifting off under your cozy down comforter when BAM! a commercial creeps up and you’re faced with a wall of deafening sound.
If you happen to own a 5.1 system that is connected to either your satellite receiver or your digital cable box, you’re in for an extra special treat — the commercials aren’t encoded with the same Dolby Surround Sound as your programming. Instead, your HI-FI receiver dishes out the volume-maximized commercials in either stereo or Dolby PLII, where the REAR L+R speakers carry the annoying voices and propaganda right to your seating location.
And we’re not talking a decibel or two here, the drastic changes in volume have been so extreme that I have found myself yelling during conversation to overcome the ShamWows and Mighty Puttys of the late-night broadcasting scene.
Until now, the government didn’t have much say in the volume of TV ads. Complaints have surfaced ever since televisions began proliferating in the 1950s. But the FCC concluded in 1984 there was no “fair” way to write regulations controlling the “apparent” (my ass) loudness of commercials.
You see, ads significantly louder than the program they’re interrupting are a particular target of this measure, prepared by California Democrat Anna Eshoo after she learned the Federal Communications Commission has no standard despite frequent complaints.
“I didn’t go with the industry,” she said. “I prodded the industry to come up with the technology and the standards. And they did.”
To date, the only well-known modus operandi here would be to hit Mute and wait out the noise until your programming returned to the screen - a stressful exercise that actually required a bit of brainpower in an otherwise brainless activity.
Eshoo’s bill requires the FCC to adopt those recommendations as regulations within a year and begin enforcing them a year later.
I say a “V” for victory, and another “V” for volume control - GO ANNA!