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CALM Act passes full Congress

With House passage of the CALM Act last week, the broadcast loudness control legislation is finally on the way to President Obama for his signature. The Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM) requires TV advertisers to ensure their ads don’t play at a volume louder than regular TV programming.

By most accounts, it’s been a long, uphill battle to get to this point. Democratic representative Anna Eschoo, from Silicon Valley, CA, originally sponsored the CALM Act in 2008. Industry leaders such as Tim Carroll, president of Linear Acoustic, and Jim Starzynski, at NBC Universal — working through the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) — have both led the charge to get TV broadcasters to expend the necessary resources to control audio levels across different types of programming.

Under the legislation, the FCC will be required within one year to adopt industry standards that coordinate advertising’s decibel levels to those of the regular program. The new regulations apply to all TV service providers, including terrestrial, cable and satellite, and would go into effect a year later.

“It’s not like the consumer has any choices,” Mark Cooper, director of research at the Consumer Federation of America, told the Associated Press. “It’s a case where it’s very difficult for consumers to express their sovereignty.”

Although the FCC has been receiving complaints from consumers since the 1960s about uneven sound bursts when commercials come on, the FCC has not until now regulated sound levels. The legislation would force the industry to abide by its own recommendations for audio standards, which were published a year ago by the ATSC.