CALM Complaints Total 15,850

WASHINGTON—All is not so CALM since the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act took effect Dec. 13, 2012. The Federal Communications Commission reports having received 15,850 consumer complaints since that time. The law requires broadcasters and cable operators to control loudness level variations between programs and commercials so viewers aren’t jarred out of their reveries. Regulators consequently relied on viewers to monitor compliance.

“The commission established an enforcement mechanism that relies on complaints from the public, which are reviewed for patterns or trends that indicate non-compliance and warrant investigation and potential penalties,” Acting FCC Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn said in a report delivered Tuesday to Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.). Eshoo. “That review is underway.”

The commission set up a special website for complaint submissions, which it said may have contributed to the hefty count. During the third quarter of 2012, before the law went into effect, the commission received just 192 loudness complaints. In December of 2012 alone, 4,777 came in.

“Not surprisingly, the special form and the publicity surrounding the new rules prompted a large wave of complaints, which has subsided significantly and consistently over the past six weeks,” Clyburn’s report said.

The monthly totals are as follows:
December, 2012 — 4,777
January, 2013 — 4,405
February, 2013 — 2,407
March, 2013 — 1,526
April, 2013 — 1,513
May, 2013 — 1,065

Of the total, two-third, or 10,700 were referred to the commission’s Enforcement Bureau for analysis to determine if action is warranted. The remaining 5,150 were incomplete, the report said. Those who filed incomplete reports were notified and given instructions on how to resubmit their complaints.

Eshoo, who sponsored the CALM Act, requested the report in a June 5 letter to Clyburn. She asked if the FCC could detect any patterns of non-compliance. Clyburn said doing so requires a “complex and multi-dimensional analysis of the complaints” by TV station, cable provider, geography, programmer and the offending commercial. The data in the complaints themselves often is not sufficient to make a reliable analysis, Clyburn said, so the FCC is having to gather further information to assess patterns.

Eshoo asked about complaints involving video-on-demand. Clyburn said there were 55. The Congresswoman also asked how many stations and cable operators applied for waivers. The commission received 170 requests in all—168 asking for a one-year waiver, and two seeking short-term waivers. All were granted, the chairwoman said.