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TV commercial loudness bill advances

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet last week approved on a voice vote a bill intended to turn down the volume on blaring commercials and restore viewer control over TV audio.

H.R. 1084, the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act, would prohibit commercials from being louder than the average audio level of their accompanying programs. Sponsored by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), the measure now moves to the House Energy & Commerce Committee.

“Under the CALM Act, consumers will control the sound, and no one else will be able to take that control from them,” Eshoo said in a press statement posted on her Web site.

During the hearing, Eshoo submitted an amendment that directs the FCC to adopt ATSC-developed technology standards to address the volume issue. The amendment represents Congressional recognition of the efforts by the Advanced Television Systems Committee to deal with the problem, said David Donovan, president of the Association for Maximum Service Television during a phone interview. Donovan, along with representatives from several vendors, broadcasters and cable networks, are scheduled to make presentations on the issue of television audio and loudness during an ATSC-sponsored seminar Nov. 4 in Washington, D.C.

As the bill stands, the FCC would have a year to put in place the audio level standards, and broadcasters would have another year to put in place the technology to ensure compliance. Smaller TV stations and cable operators could obtain one-year waivers, but not indefinitely.

“There will not be an open-ended waiver process that drags on for several years,” Eshoo said in her press statement. “Consumers have waited long enough for this simple but critical change to take place.”