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UPDATED: House Votes to CALM TV Ads

WASHINGTON: A bill to regulate the volume of TV commercials received voice vote approval on the House floor yesterday. The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act requires the FCC to adopt specific broadcast loudness standards within a year of enacting it.

H.R. 1084 was introduced by by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.). It collected 90 co-sponsors over the last few months, and Eshoo recently told the Los Angeles Times she had never “carried a bill which has been received with so much enthusiasm. Only the do-not-call list has even come close.

Eshoo introduced similar legislation last year, but it didn’t go anywhere. The Times notes that Texas Republican Joe Barton, a long-time fixture on the House Commerce Committee, wasn’t keen this year on regulating TV volume.

“In this spirit of things that annoy us, I’d like Congresswoman Eshoo to introduce a bill soon to repeal the excessive-celebration rule in sports,” Barton said. “It just really irritates me when my team scores a touchdown and they get penalized because they hold the football up.”

Companion legislation in the Senate has been referred to the Commerce Committee. That bill, S. 2847, was introduced last week by Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

“Every day millions of Americans are barraged with abrasively loud television commercials,” Whitehouse said. With the digital transition complete and new broadcast technology available, we can finally take this long-overdue action to dial down to normal the loudness of these ads.

Actually, audio in general has been complicated by the digital transition since it is transmitted separately from the video signal, often causing the two to be out of sync when decoded on a TV set. Lip-sync has been a primary concern to broadcast engineers, who have not entirely ignored loudness. The commission already has voluntary loudness guidelines. The Advanced Television Systems Committee further adopted a recommended practice for controlling audio levels last month. It covers the broadcast distribution chain as well as production and transmission.

No vote appears to be scheduled in the Senate Commerce Committee on S.2847, but there is an executive session scheduled for tomorrow during which several bills and nominations will be considered.

In related news, Harris published the results of a survey in which 33 percent of those responding favored outlawing loud TV commercials.

More on the CALM Act:
October 8, 2009: “TV Loudness Bill Passes Subcommittee”
“All of us have had the experience of enjoying a favorite program only to find ourselves scrambling to locate the remote control when at the commercial break the volume of the television seemingly doubles. Those volume increases must end. I look forward to the enactment of this measure.”