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Senate Commerce Committee passes bill regulating loudness

The Senate Commerce Committee last week passed by unanimous consent the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act, which regulates the volume of television commercials. The committee adopted the practices on commercial volume recommended by the Advanced Television Systems Committee.

“Excessively loud television advertisements may seem like a small thing, but they are a big source of irritation for many television viewers,” said Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-WV. “This is really an issue about fairness — and making sure that advertisers can’t just blast advertisements at consumers at unbearable volume levels.”

The House has already passed the bill, with minor differences. It directs the FCC to regulate commercial volume per the ATSC’s recommendations adopted last November, and gives cable operators and broadcasters a year from the law’s adoption to comply.

The bill will need full Senate approval and then must return to the House, which must vote again on the bill to reconcile the minor differences.

“The disturbing thing about audio loudness is that there has been a mandated specification on the books since 1995, but not many have chosen to adhere to it,” said Tim Carroll, president of Linear Acoustic, a manufacturer of products that address the issue.

“The problem is that it is a lot of work for broadcasters to get right, and not many have been willing to expend the necessary resources,” Carroll said.

Once the new legislation is approved, which could come in the fall, broadcasters will have to pay attention and turn down the volume when necessary.