Congress turns down volume on commercials

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Frankly, it shouldn’t have taken an act of Congress to reduce the volume on television commercials. Yet, it did.

The public has been asking — nicely and not-so-nicely — for decades to end the really irritating practice of jacking up the volume on commercials so high it’s as if the actors are screaming. Sure, the volume can be turned down but then, when the program comes back on, the volume is too low to be heard.

No, this isn’t a national crisis but it is annoying and creates an unnecessary hassle — volume down, volume up, volume down, etc.

Given that, we are extremely pleased Congress has taken action.

A year ago Congress passed legislation requiring commercials to have the same volume as the shows they accompany. The law went into effect on Thursday.

“A small bill with a big impact for the American consumer” is how Rep. Ann Eshoo, D-Calif., described the legislation (the CALM Act) she and Sen Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., sponsored.

“TV is about to become quieter,” Eshoo said.

Advertisers were given a year to prepare for the new rules.

The Federal Communications Commission will oversee enforcement of the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation, or CALM, Act. The FCC noted that complaints from viewers about loud commercials began in the earliest days of television and had been among the leading causes of complaints since 2002, when the agency launched a call center.

Exactly why Congress — or anybody else — hasn’t been able to get advertisers to dial it down until now is a bit perplexing. Yet, it probably has to do with many in the House and Senate thinking this was too mundane an issue for an act of Congress.

The legislation got its start at Eshoo’s house while she was having a family gathering. She was cooking and talking to relatives while others were watching television. “Everyone was watching and talking and then the blast arrived ... And I shouted out to my brother-in-law, ‘Do something about that! Turn that thing down,’ ” Eshoo said. “And he turned around and said to me: ‘You’re the congresswoman, why don’t you do something about it?’”

That’s an experience to which most of us can relate. Mundane or not, this legislation will affect the lives of millions daily.

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