FCC Makes Minor Alterations to CALM Act

WASHINGTON--The FCC this week updated the CALM Act to reflect new changes implemented by the Advanced Television Systems Committee. The commission gave broadcasters until June 4, 2015 to comply with the new changes.

The CALM Act, a law which was passed by Congress in 2011 and put into effect in December 2012, uses the ATSC A/85 specification as the basis for standardizing audio levels to prevent overly loud television advertising on broadcast and multichannel television services. The 2011 version of ATSC A/85 Recommended Practice was updated in March 2013 to apply an improved loudness measurement algorithm to comply with the International Telecommunication Union’s updated BS.1770 measurement algorithm BS.1770.3. The update employs “gating” that prevents advertisers from including “very quiet” or “silent” passages of a commercial when calculating the average loudness of that commercial.

“Use of the new algorithm may reduce the volume of some commercials in certain circumstances,” the FCC said in its “Second Report and Order,” issued on June 4, adding that once the change is implemented, “viewers may notice a modest decrease in the perceived loudness of certain commercials.”

NAB was the only commenter on the issue, which is based on a Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking issued in November, 2013. In its comments to the commission, NAB said that based on a survey of its television members, “most equipment deployed to comply with the A/85 RP can likely be modified through relatively low-cost software upgrades to comply with the RP.”

The commission said it would consider granting waivers for additional time to comply if “certain regulated parties have purchased equipment that is not easily upgradable or could otherwise show that implementation of the Successor RP [the updated rules announced this week] would be significantly burdensome.” The FCC, did, however reject a request by Holsten Valley to extend the existing financial hardship for an additional year for small TV stations. Holsten had argued that the time gap between when stations have to comply with the CALM Act under the current RP (Dec. 13, 2014) and the effective date of the new changes (June 4, 2015), could cause eligible stations to pay twice for the equipment and software package needed to comply with the CALM Act.

The FCC rejected that argument, responding that Holsten had not made clear why stations couldn’t comply. “Because most currently available equipment will be compliant with the Successor RP—and regulated entities can ensure that they purchase equipment that complies (or can be easily upgraded to comply) with the Successor RP—we are not persuaded that this gap will pose any problems to regulated entities,” the commission said.

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched digitalbroadcasting.com for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (www.tvtech.com), the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.