The U.S. Senate acted in unison to pass the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, or CALM, an act that requires stations to mitigate the sound level that some advertisers use to blast across your living room set. Under the act, the commercials will have to air at programming volume levels.
We've all experienced those moments between TV shows -- or in the midst of them -- when sound levels rise so much that normal conversation becomes impossible without adjusting the volume. According to sponsors, the bill will cut out a problem that has been annoying to many viewers.
The House of Representatives passed a similar bill, and when Congress returns to Washington following the November elections, the two pieces of legislation will be compared to determine differences and then sent to the White House for presidential approval. The challenge for broadcasters is moderating commercial volume levels, so the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) created the guidelines for processing, measuring, and transmitting TV spot audio levels at an even keel.
However, if the two pieces of legislation are merged successfully and they become law, the FCC won't be able to enforce the ATSC guidelines for two years; bill co-sponsor Chuck Schumer noted it was “about time we turned down the volume on loud commercials that try to startle TV watchers into paying attention.”
For TV advertisers, though, the legislation is a setback in their effort to capture the attention of an ever-fragmenting audience that increasingly spends time multitasking their media/entertainment consumption.