McAdams On: CALM, Schmalm
10/1/2010 1:49:30 PM
Now, thanks to the power of legislation,
Americans can be safe from loud TV commercials. The Senate passed the
Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation Act this week because it was easier
to agree on than something that matters. The CALM Act will compel the
FCC to regulate the volume of TV commercials.
I have to wonder how many staff hours on Capitol Hill were spent crafting the
CALM Act. How many cigars, brandies, golf games and steak dinners went into it.
I wonder how many votes on what were traded, or if it’s just one of those
easy-peasies that makes it appear that federal lawmakers can actually agree on
If the president signs it, I’ll be flabbergasted. Therefore, I am prepared to
be flabbergasted. How hard is it to hate on loud TV commercials? God forbid I
should ever meet the guy from Mattress Warehouse with a fish filleter in my
handbag. But seriously. A law? Where are all the anti big-government folks? We
actually need a federal law to control the volume on our TV sets, of which
there are more than people in the United States?
“Excessively loud television advertisements may seem like a small thing,” Sen.
Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) when the Commerce Committee passed CALM. “But they are
a big source of irritation for many television viewers.”
The troops in Afghanistan and Iraq must be just delirious to know that Congress
will not tolerate irritation.
I do wish that everyone who voted for the CALM burlesque would sit through the
subsequent engineering conferences. I wish there was even a modicum of
technical awareness in the creation of such a bill. But this is one of those
Yul Brenner-as-Pharaoh things--so let it be written, so let it be done. Because
TV is just a singular stream of pictures and sound pumped into the RCA console
for display in the home living room. Not. It’s a mélange of disparate segments,
signals, formats, files, data and information--often created and combined on
the fly--that has to traverse several thousand miles through various infrastructures
That it happens at all is kind of a miracle. Every time I’m around TV engineers
who deign to explain what they do in terms a six-year-old would understand, my
head nearly explodes. (That’s not to say that Engineer vs. Engineer thing you
do isn’t tedious. Yes, I’m talking to you.) Be that as it may, the folks on the
technical side of TV are pretty sharp. They get that A) people are annoyed by
screaming Mattress Warehouse Dude. B) Annoyed people turn of the TV and go
outside. C) Outside is not where TV ratings are generated. D) TV ratings
predicate their paychecks.
And why, I have to wonder, can’t TV sets be programmed to buffer radical audio
shifts? Why don’t they have automatic gain control, filters, limiters and audio
compressors? Oh, yeah. Many do. Setting the controls is apparently a big source of irritation to many viewers.