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Bringing Down the Volume of Loud Commercials

Kim Hart

Ever get sick of those commercials that seem to be a lot louder than the show you're watching?

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss) sympathizes with you.

The senator yesterday introduced legislation that would require the Federal Communications Commission to bar commercials from being broadcast at louder volumes than the program material they accompany. It's called the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, or CALM Act.

"Excessively loud television commercials are annoying and drive families away from quality programming," Wicker said in a news release. "This bill is a common sense approach to a problem that plagues individuals across the nation and will create a more enjoyable television experience. As a member of the Commerce Committee, I look forward to working with my colleagues to make this legislation a reality."

The bill has companion legislation introduced in the House by Rep. Anna Eschoo (D-CA).

Should this issue be a top priority for Congress and the FCC?

By Kim Hart  |  June 19, 2008; 2:52 PM ET  | Category:  Kim Hart
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Mitigating the ramped up loudness of commercials is long overdue. It is intrusive and offensive to my family.

Posted by: Robert | June 20, 2008 10:17 AM

Yes, this should be a priority. This practice of increasing the apparent volume of commercials is, to me, terribly distracting and distressing. Aside from simple aggravation, this practice, along with the continually present translucent network logos and superimposed mini-commercials for upcoming broadcasts (both of which more often than not cover up something important to the story being broadcast,) serve to make blatant the previously discretely obscured commercial agenda, which is not to entertain an audience, but to put advertising in front of eyeballs, and one's expectation of being able to follow a story with a minimum of distraction, is, after all, a little naive.

Posted by: Paul D | June 20, 2008 10:35 AM

Why does it need an act of Congress? Can't the FCC do this on its own through regulations?
The promos for Directv pay-per-view events are among the worst offenders, by far!

Posted by: bbaction | June 20, 2008 10:36 AM

Rep. Anna Eschoo? Gesundheit! Just kidding. I'm all in favor of this. It's an example of what can happen when the marketplace can't really speak effectively and govt. has to step in. The perps in loud commercials has to be the advertisers, who must have a term in their ad contracts that guarantees this cuz it doesn't happen consistently by accident. Of course the stations are co-perpetrators. If I lived in Miss or CA, I would vote for these lawmakers, plus I also admire the person who came up with the CALM acronym. :-))

Posted by: Pete from Arlington | June 20, 2008 10:36 AM

For those who as why this needs an act of Congress, the answer is simple. In spite of years of complaints, no one else has done anything about it. If anything, the problem has gotten worse. It used to be a relatively mild annoyance; now we're blasted with some commercials at truly obnoxious levels. In my household, we use the remote's "mute" button constantly in order to protect our hearing and our sanity. I'm not deaf, and have no desire to be; so since the FCC seems to be unable, Congress can and should do something to protect us from the assault by noise. And that's exactly what it is--noise.

Posted by: R. U. Deff | June 20, 2008 10:55 AM

For those who ask why this needs an act of Congress, the answer is simple. In spite of years of complaints, no one else has done anything about it. If anything, the problem has gotten worse. It used to be a relatively mild annoyance; now we're blasted with some commercials at truly obnoxious levels. In my household, we use the remote's "mute" button constantly in order to protect our hearing and our sanity. I'm not deaf, and have no desire to be; so since the FCC seems to be unable, Congress can and should do something to protect us from the assault by noise. And that's exactly what it is--noise.

Posted by: R. U. Deff | June 20, 2008 10:56 AM

he best part of having a remote is the mute button. It may wear out at my house before the TV does. And if I may switch to TV without pictures -- the classical radio station in San Francisco plays the worst commercials (the cheesiest offerings ever heard on a classical station) and also pumps the volume up. Fortunately, I know how to switch stations. The idea of asking Congress to do anything decent is shocking. They just won't do it unless the members can profit. Sad, isn't it?

Posted by: Sandy in Kensington | June 20, 2008 11:18 AM

Thank you Sen. Wicker!

Posted by: Peter | June 20, 2008 11:19 AM

A sincere Thank You to Sen. Roger Wicker & Rep. Anna Eschoo. My you both be blessed and successful!

Posted by: Marty | June 20, 2008 11:33 AM

I sure am glad someone is trying to do something. My wife does not understand that they can control the volume and that they want you to hear the add when you go to the kitchen or any other place during a break in the show.. It has caused arguments when she thinks I turned it up. I also hear very different volumes when changing stations(go figure). Good luck to anyone who trys to stop them.

Posted by: Landis | June 20, 2008 11:41 AM

passage of the calm act cannot come to soon. we hate/dislike/abhor/can't stand the volume increase when comm ads come on.

Posted by: joseph | June 20, 2008 12:12 PM

Good!

I hate hearing about lipozene ALL THE WAY FROM MY BATHROOM, when I struggle to hear what the characters are saying on the show I'm watching while sitting a couple feet from the tv. Its absurd!

Finally someone doing something productive!

Posted by: mmm | June 20, 2008 12:29 PM

Good Move! I would encourage also the reduction of background music and "swooosh" sounds used in some programs intended, apparently, to draw the attention to the screen. This additional sound detracts from the dialogue, sometimes overpowering it entirely. Unless such changes occur some of us will be driven to "Tivo" everything, thus saving time and aggravation since we will be able to fast-forward through all distractions!

Posted by: Robert Cantrell | June 20, 2008 12:34 PM

Yes, I agree to the idea that the FCC do this immediately by rule, and if that does not pass a challenge in the courts, then go the legislative route. There would be greater impetus then for the legislation to pass, and the public outcry over a defeat in the courts would be enough to make the buyers of offending commercials think twice about their tactic. Bad publicity would be the last thing they want.

Posted by: Caponer | June 20, 2008 12:41 PM

This does not go far enough. Television has deteriorated to such an extend, and especially the ever increasing time allotted for commercials, that TV's are no longer present in our house. Lets just hope and pray that the PC does not get polluted with the same garbage. But, that's probably wishful thinking.

Posted by: hansy | June 20, 2008 1:10 PM

Finally! Thank you Senator Wicker for taking action. My family and my eardrums will be better for it!
Good luck in November...Team Wicker has got my vote!

Posted by: Betty Ann | June 20, 2008 1:53 PM

It's about time. This can be easily done and I refuse to buy any products that bother me acoustically.

Posted by: Harvey | June 20, 2008 2:34 PM

For the first time in YEARS, I just sent a note to both my Senators asking for their support of this legislation. SO badlly needed!

WHY can't the FCC DO something? Because the leaders there are politically appointed and bought and paid for by big money...and big money WANTS to get YOUR attention, the good way OR the bad way...since the passage of the "Civil Service Reform Act" in the Carter Admin., the federal bureaucracy has been invaded by incompetent political hacks who take two years to get a job, sit incompetently in it for two more, blocking any progress or not making any decisions OR BAD ones, since they normally have no professional 'creds' for the positions they hold, just 'bought and paid for' chairs that lead them to 'free' life pensions after a minimum federal employment, perhaps 4 - 8 years...DON'T get me started! Start a movement to un-enact the Civil Service Reform Act and return control of the federal government to professionals in their profession/trade/business - with a 30-year commitment for a pension! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGHHHHH!

Posted by: Marty | June 20, 2008 2:35 PM

So much advertising during family programs is inappropriately geared toward young children, and the loud volume makes it even harder for little ears to tune it out. My thanks to Senator Wicker for working to make our homes a little quieter and family time a little calmer.

Posted by: Mississippi Mama | June 20, 2008 2:37 PM

We in the pro audio community are quite aware of what goes on with audio processing. The usual request by the client who pays the bills is simple, MAKE IT LOUDER. This is true in music mastering for CD release, but very extreme in broadcasting. Several techniques are available, the most irritating is called hard clipping, which takes normal speech at about 15% of peak level and jams it up to the 99% range. This might be useful in a noisy airplane cockpit or helpful on a car stereo, but hardly appropriate for home listening. The FCC is responsible for limiting the maximum volume to 100%, but the average (perceived) level can be anywhere. The FCC commissioner Kevin Martin is a political hack as described by Marty and has done nothing useful during his sinecure.

Posted by: Bill | June 20, 2008 3:54 PM

I would applaud a measure to require advertising to be truthful, and to require reputable evidence to support any claims made.

Even better would be to require a VOICE statement at the end of any commercial where no claims are made for the effectiveness of the product or service, saying just that in simple language. That would apply to most television ads!

Posted by: Martin | June 20, 2008 8:20 PM

I agree. Lying and misrepresentation are far more of a problem than loudness. This measure is a band aid on a broken leg!

Posted by: Raymond | June 20, 2008 8:27 PM

Why stop at TV what about the Movies? The dialogue is so low and whispered it is impossible to understand. Although the special effects garbage noises are loud enough to be heard by planes passing overhead. No wonder no one goes to movies anymore.

Posted by: annoyed | June 20, 2008 8:41 PM

Theres a common misconception here.

There are probably several ads who's volume has been amplified above the program material.

But, what many people dont realize, is that the volume is not in fact any higher on most ads, but instead is extremely dynamically compressed to make it sound louder.

With today's HD TV's and surround sound sound systems, the differences in dynamic range from program material to ads is much more obvious than it was in the old days with the little speaker in the TV. That little single speaker distorted more with the commercials, than the hifi speakers of today.

We turn the volume levels up to hear the quiet passages in the movies/tv shows today, but when the commercials kick in, they sound louder because the dymamic compression makes the commercial's quiet passages louder.

Generally, ad volumes arent cranked too high because they advertisers dont want their sound to be distorted/clipped over the peak for the sound signal. Dynamic compression gets them the attention getting volume without exceeding the peak and causing that distortion.

Listen to a radio talk show and notice how you can hear the quiet passages at almost the same volume as the loud ones.

Then tune to Jazz and notice the high hat or snare brushing sounds are really soft compared to bass plucking or drum hits.

Posted by: Oldtymer | June 20, 2008 8:47 PM

What will Billy Mays do for work when this passes?

Posted by: Robert | June 20, 2008 8:54 PM

We need something like that on the internet. You know when you load a website that has no sound, and suddenly an audio ad runs that says CONGRATULATIONS YOU'VE WON A ______! CLICK NOW TO GET YOUR FREE ______! Of course it says on the ad in the smallest font and text size possible *Participation Required which usually involves thousands of hours of investment I.E., instead of money you spend all of your free time doing this for like several months to get crap that would take you 1 day at work to afford. Then you have to pay tax even though you didn't win it but spent many months of your time earning it. It's a horrible waste of time, but thats not the point, those ads are damn annoying!

If the website has constant sound, then sound ads are acceptable, but loud ads on a website with no sound is so annoying I turn on my ad blocker & turn off the volume to my computer intill I'm off that site.

Posted by: James | June 20, 2008 8:54 PM

Here's an idea, why don't we do away with all advertising and all government subsidies and make all tv programming available only on a viewer paid basis. Then we can each shell out $200 or so a month for the broadcasts. Plus, we can also enjoy more directmail coupons and increased advertising presence on the Internet.

Posted by: chet | June 20, 2008 8:56 PM

This is exactly the kind of "big government" overlegislation that conservative republicans should be against. Do we have to make FEDERAL laws banning every little thing we don't like? Senator Wicker R-Miss. should be ashamed of himself for clogging up government with such a pointless nonsense bill during a time of war and economic crisis. I am disgusted.

Posted by: Joe J. | June 20, 2008 8:58 PM

Wow, that would be nice. Glad to see politicians actually doing something GOOD for a change.

JT
http://www.ULtimate-Anonymity.com

Posted by: JOhn Thomas | June 20, 2008 9:03 PM

Here's an idea. If you don't like the content of TV programming (whether it's the programs or the commercials), don't watch TV. Of course, that would require that people have the sense to turn the TV off and be able to do something other than become zombies. Maybe they could even learn to read. (Yeah, right.)

The idea that government should regulate every little thing in our lives is insane. It must be getting harder and harder for satire writers at the Onion to come up with good material, because it's too easy to mistake satire for the insanity in the real world.

Posted by: David McElroy | June 20, 2008 9:03 PM

Bill raises a good point about the processing that is employed. Introducing legislation with language including terms such as "volume" and "loudness" without addressing the precise methods used leaves loopholes for advertising producers to exploit.
Also, these ad people should realize that a significant reason why people Tivo through TV commercials is this offensive audio tactic. Go ahead. Keep it up. You shall suffer greater losses. Advertising, like the some other industries that are comprised almost entirely by useless middlemen (I'm looking at you, recording industry) shall be proven to be another diminishing industry.

Posted by: Steve | June 20, 2008 9:20 PM

Being a Chief Engineer at a CBS station, I can tell you, it annoys us just as much as it annoys you.
The problem is twofold:
1) automation. All the spots now come down digitally, typically through a system called telestream flipfactory. we never adjust the volume. we hardly get a chance to, as the spot is simply quickly viewed and approved. via a mouse click. (not like the old days of playing them on a tape)
My Master control has gone from 8 people to 2 people, and they don't have time to be adjusting every spot they ingest. congratulations; your government at work, deregulating television, and eliminating jobs, while increasing profits for the wealthy owners.

2) the spots are expanded audio so even when the volume level is at 0VU (regular volume on a meter) the whole spot has no low volume percentage at all its all full tilt 100% 0vu. the average volume ends up louder, causing it to sound louder, even though on a meter, its the same level as the normal parts of the program.

So, if you vote republican, you can blame yourself for your deregulation. :P

Posted by: Ed | June 20, 2008 9:23 PM

This is a fine example of why America is referred to as the "nanny state"! So sad that consumers will not be more proactive. How about not doing business with the companies who's advertisements are so loud & obnoxious? You know why it has only gotten worse...because Americans aren't willing to do anything more than whine about things. Oh you'll complain till the cows come home, but you won't stop watching the tube will you?! You won't stop buying the products that are represented by those offending commercials! Will ya?! Oh no! Can't be inconvenience! Gotta have your pacifier!
How about telling the satellite/cable companies that if they do not put more pressure on their providers/advertisers and if they don't then you will cancel your account...by the way if you are paying for subscription tv and internet your a fool anyway because you can get everything on the internet now.....without the annoying commercials! Or maybe just shutting the tv off altogether and spending some quality time together without depending on "entertainment" you don't create for yourself! No wonder American government is out of control.....it seems most citizens want them to do everything for them anymore! There are far more important issues that congress has, or should have on their plate right now....oh like for instance...IMPEACHMENT, stopping this insane administration from starting another illegal, pre-emtive war, this time with IRAN, or any number of far more important things, healthcare, veteran care, bringing our troops home.....but commercial volumes is not one of them. Do something for yourselves SHEEPLE....take action, instead of sitting in your comfortable & blissful ignorance...waiting for the nanny state to change your pants and feed you more mainstream brain numbing propaganda!
America Land of Greed and Home of The Depraved!

Posted by: Dar | June 20, 2008 9:36 PM

Despite the belief that commercials are getting louder, they're not. The FCC already limits the amount of voltage that can be transmitted as part of the audio signal.

I think the problem is due more to quieter average TV shows. The most popular shows, LOST, Heroes, or Prison Break, are dark, moody and quiet.

Watch Oprah or a game show and the commercials won't seem to be nearly as loud.

Commercials are limited by the same standards and existing laws as TV shows. To differentiate between the two and legislate is ridiculous.

A Commerical Mixer,
Chicago Illinois

Posted by: Commerical Mixer | June 20, 2008 10:02 PM

Paul D - I agree.
But I call the hateful, "translucent network logos and superimposed mini-commercials for upcoming broadcasts" ,... Screen Graffiti.

Posted by: beerwulf | June 20, 2008 10:07 PM

The only reason commercials seem louder is because of audio compression. Regular television shows have more dynamic audio, a broader range from quiet to loud. Commercials produced and ingested properly are not louder than the television shows, they just have a more consistent level. I personally think this bill is ludicrous, especially since most people either mute commercials or change channels during them.

Posted by: Commercial Producer | June 20, 2008 10:46 PM

My God! Are there no other more important issues in this world besides "our TV is too loud"?!?!!?

This country is screwed up

Posted by: Bill Harris | June 20, 2008 11:23 PM

The ridiculous amount, quality and volume of ads on TV today is what drove me to watching and downloading my TV shows online without commercials. Now i can actually fall asleep to a TV show again without being waken up in the middle of the night.

Posted by: ToOn | June 20, 2008 11:34 PM

This kind of litigation goes to show the irrational priorities of the American people. A war in Iraq, crippling dependence on oil, education and healthcare crumbling--- don't Congressmen have anything better to do? Are loud TV advertisements such a problem that they require the elected representatives of a 300-million nation to devote any attention to it?

For shame

Posted by: Rusty Shackleford | June 20, 2008 11:34 PM

TURN DOWN THE COMMERCIALS!!!!

Posted by: banddad | June 20, 2008 11:37 PM

I can't do anything for myself, so Congress should do it for me.

Posted by: American | June 20, 2008 11:42 PM

I don't think it should be a top priority, but this bill definitely needs to be passed. It would bring so much benefit to so many people. No, it's not like people are dying or even being injured because their TV commercials are too loud. But still, this bill would benefit just about everyone who owns a TV.

Posted by: Jim | June 20, 2008 11:44 PM

Thank goodness! We were so annoyed with commercials while watching American Idol, The Hills, and Showbiz news! Thank god for congress, protecting our ears from these blatant assaults. Thank goodness for them having nothing better to do, like signing a 150 billion dollar blank check to bush for a war in iraq. Or our Peso like currency. I can't wait for Great Depression II. You all are in for one rough ride.

Posted by: Jerry | June 21, 2008 12:11 AM

YES! absolutely!!! i have been wondering why in the world there is SUCH a huuuuuuge discrepancy between commercials and tv programming! there are technical BROADCAST STANDARDS that cannot be violated to be considered "NTSC SAFE" for video... you can't have "superblack" or "superwhite" for instance because those signals intrude on other aspects of the signal (like sound - ever see an old local merchant commercial that makes the sound hiss?)... why in the world aren't there sound mastering standards? it makes me HATE ALL COMMERCIALS! how does this help the advertisers' cause? i'm not a repub but i'd like to buy that senator a drink and shake his hand. and at the same time punch the tv station technicians in the face.

Posted by: jin choung | June 21, 2008 12:27 AM

Vitamin Water!

Posted by: Martini | June 21, 2008 12:35 AM

I love when people say, "commercials only SEEM to be louder than regular programming audio". Only someone in the advertising business would say something like that. If I have to turn the volume down five levels during a commercial to make the volume level SEEM to be at the same level it was for the program I was just watching, I'm not imagining things.

Posted by: Steve | June 21, 2008 12:36 AM

It's not a bad idea, but I think it's time our representatives in Washington stopped diverting our attention from the reason we sent them there: To get us the heck out of Iraq. If I'd wanted a television nanny, I would have bought a set with a V-Chip.

Posted by: Colin | June 21, 2008 12:52 AM

I watch alot of the older movies and I have to increase the volume up to hear them well. But when a commercial comes on it nearly blasts me out of the livingroom unless I am setting on the mute button. I have been researching the use of infrasound, the low frequencies, since 2003 and advertisers lace their commercials with infrasound to intensify the effect it has on the viewers and their mood. With the increase in the number of commercials and the outragous volume it is a pain to watch TV anymore. I have cut my TV time by 80% already - mostly because of the loudness and content of most commercials. The Government needs to clamp down on the content/themes of these commercials and lower the loudness several notches. Furthermore, the use of infrasound in commercials should be strictly prohibited. I support new legislation!!!!

Posted by: Michael W. Smith | June 21, 2008 12:56 AM

Yes, it should be a priority. I often turn off the TV because of loud ads. I have at times gone as far as putting a compressor / limiter between the receiver and television to level out the volume changes.

Posted by: R. East | June 21, 2008 12:58 AM

This bill is nonsense. As someone who has mixed programs and commercials for almost two decades, I can tell you that this would be impossible to implement.

Acoustic loudness and electrical level sometimes correlate, but not always. So how will we legislate loudness when all we can measure is essentially the level of the electrical signal. And that electrical signal already has limits and restrictions. Yes, there are ways of measuring precieved loudness, like ITU 1770, but this still doesn't really fix the problem which is the dramatic differences in dynamic range between programs and commercials.

@ Steve and the other millions who don't see to understand the crux of the problem. Programs have quiet parts and loud parts-- that is called dynamic range. Commercials push every sound up towards the louder end of the scale. Both the program and the commercial have the same upper limit, but commercials stay up at that limit for the entire 30 seconds whereas a program might only reach that point a few times in an half hour. Electrically, the commercial does reach any further than the program. Acoustically, it sounds significantly louder.

Any effort to legisalte dynamic range would be very hard to implement. The only outcome I could see is that programs would begin to have less dynamic range and begin to sound
more like commercials.

I appreciate people's frustration with this, but believe me: it's not as easy as passing a law to fix it.

Posted by: richard | June 21, 2008 1:20 AM

Edit of my post above. that should say, electrically the commercial doesn't peak any louder than the program...

Posted by: richard | June 21, 2008 1:25 AM

Umm how about not letting them make the commercials maintain the "upper limit" for 30 seconds?

Seriously, even the way you're describing it it's not that difficult.

"Well TV shows only get really loud a couple times and commercials are always at the loudest. It would be hard to implement limits"

No, it wouldn't. If what you're saying is true then it could be set to 50% of the "upper limit". Don't let them broadcast at the loudest possible volume. Problem solved.

Posted by: Winst | June 21, 2008 1:54 AM

You know, I notice in my town (Austin TX) that the local cable company (Time Warner) plays their own commercials at a higher volume. (commercials advertising pay-per-view and other services)

Posted by: Danny | June 21, 2008 2:13 AM

This bill and all of the comments supporting this bill must be some kind of stupid, late April fool's joke or something.

Posted by: Blake | June 21, 2008 4:04 AM

Yes.

Well done to all in involved with the introduction of this law.

There is a couple around on tv at the mo. Without warning car horns are blasting from your tv, a man starts roaring at the top of his voice or music extremely loud blasts out!

We get our three kids to bed around seven, sit down and re-claim the tv. Switching it over from the kids channels, all of a sudden sooner or later without warning an advert comes on waking our kids.
We always keep the volume at a normal level but such is the high volume of the sudden played advert, it has us racing for the feckin' volume on the remote.

Its pees me off that WITHOUT warning a screaming person or repetitive car horns are blasting from our tv, especially at kids bed times onwards! Evil or Very Mad

Its one thing to be watching a film or programme that is full of loud bangs and crashes, etc, you adjust the volume for this and leave it low but when your watching normal shows like the news, quizzes, etc, volume at a normal level that you can hear them speak - they take a break, you get up from the sofa to go do something then suddenly you have to race back because a feckin' car horn is blasting from your tv speaker again and again at very high pitch! Way above the previous normalized sounds of the tv programmes you were watching.

I have gotten to annoyed at some of them, I had to email the related companies and complain. I suspect I am not the only one that has done this.

Posted by: Jeff Rudd | June 21, 2008 6:46 AM

Here is an idea..legislate that the maximum volume on a commercial is 10Db down/lower than average program.

Then let the commercial producers compress away!

Posted by: ed | June 21, 2008 7:26 AM

If audio output is 60db average during a show, and 90db average during a commercial, the consumer could care less that the voltages involved are all within specifications.

Level the average decibel levels of commercial spots with the average decibel levels of the show they are aired in.

Simple in concept, more difficult in practice, but can be done in a standardized fashion, so hardly insurmountable.

Posted by: stop-the-madness | June 21, 2008 8:42 AM

@ winst. That doesn't solve the problem. You have just moved the upper limit, but you haven't addressed the dynamic range. The end result is that the viewer adjusts their tv volume to get programming back to a comfortable level and then the commercials come in and still are loud with respect to the program, but are at half the volume they were before the legislation. And if we are talking about an analogue broadcast, you have now taken the signal out of its optimal range for transmission and induced more noise into the system. (that's less true for a digital broadcast).

@ed. Interesting idea. This approach could actually acheive the desired results, but I'm skeptical that this is something that would actually happen.

Posted by: richard | June 21, 2008 8:52 AM

Yes this is a wonderful idea but I have taken my own action with the "MUTE" button. It does removes all problems and can also be used on Sunday night football for Al Micheals comments.

My other favorite button is "Previous Channel" whenever Bush appears on the screen!

Posted by: Old Timer | June 21, 2008 9:09 AM

I agree that this is worth legislature, regardless if people consider it pointless and "nanny"-like. This has gotten worse over the years; and is especially bad with local commercials and many of the smaller network channels. I'd also agree that this is part of the reason I watch much less TV now, although that's also because largely the programming is now mostly junk as well... what is it this year, Idol season 52 or something?
Generally speaking the whole industry willfully abuses its customers, I mean, why is it that there must be previews and commercials on purchased DVDs; which are also also just as guilty of being overly loud?

Posted by: KBP | June 21, 2008 9:48 AM

clearly, this is the most pressing issue facing congress today. way to report on the things that matter.

Posted by: t-rad | June 21, 2008 10:56 AM

Superb - all for this act. Perhaps in the interim, the FCC should simply publish a ranking list of the loudest offenders. That would be good advertising.

Posted by: McG | June 21, 2008 11:25 AM

This problem is easily solved.

Electronic manufacturers need to include audio limiters/compressors in their electronics and then label the settings "TV", "Night mode", or "Bypass", etc..
They could easily include a variety of "limiter/compressor" levels so the listener could adjust the audio to their listening preference.
This is already done in some DVD players.

Posted by: SEEK | June 21, 2008 11:26 AM

Would I like to see this bill passed? Absolutely, yes. Is it a top priority? No. Repairing the US infrastructure, taking steps to balance the federal budget, ongoing disaster recovery from hurricanes Katrina and Rita not to mention the current flodding are all more important priorities.

In all seriousness, CALM should be a bill that goes to the Senate floor and gets approved, hands down. But what should happen and what will happen are never the same--especially with Congress. CALM, which should be common sense legislation, will end up being bogged down with riders as other senators threaten to withhold their "yes" vote unless their pet pork projects are added to the terms. A result of this back-and-forth deal making on matters having nothing to do with the intent of CALM will be that this bill won't even make it to the floor for a vote for at least two more sessions. And then it will probably be sent to (or back to) committee, delaying it again for at least another session; giving the advertising lobbies much more time to gain access to OUR lawmakers and convince them the bill is unnecessary, and in exchange for the senator's "no" vote, the lobby will make considerable campaign contributions toward the senator's next election (or somesuch offer equally attractive for the senator).

The fact that Congress can't, or won't, deal with issues in a straightfoward manner is one of the main reasons, IMHO, that our government is failing us, the people. Compound that with the current administration and, well, you get the picture.

Posted by: Gayle | June 21, 2008 3:38 PM

I am canadian and do not really not much about congress, other than a little from high school, but while this is not the most important thing congress could be doing, I think it is nice to see them doing something for the everyday people. All we get in canada is, if you have an issue here's a tissue, other wise we are on are one, unless it is an issue that takes money away from the goverment. So america should be a little happy that congress is looking at the little things for your everyday life.

Posted by: Ryan | June 21, 2008 3:54 PM

In the UK we've had legislation about this for quite a while; it hasn't helped.

The adverts aren't at a higher volume; they sound louder because the advert makers have compressed the dynamic range.

In other words a TV programme spends most of its time at around 50%, say, of full volume and saves 100% for explosions etc. An advert on the other hand spends the whole time at 100%.

Legislating the volume level at which TV channels play adverts won't change anything; you also need to do something about the dynamic range.

Posted by: Sean | June 21, 2008 7:04 PM

I work in television production and another reason they can be too loud is simply a mistake gone uncorrected because it would take far more effort than it's worth.

Posted by: Tyler Paul | June 21, 2008 7:13 PM

YES
This drives me insane! If it takes congress to stop it so be it!

Posted by: RG | June 21, 2008 7:56 PM

This is the reason congressional approval is at 12%. They are incompetent bumblers meddling in states affairs. If you don't like the volume of the ads, the content of the ads, the volume of the programming, or the content of the programming, turn the channel or turn the television to the off position.

Posted by: Congress approval 12% | June 21, 2008 10:59 PM

Having worked in broadcasting for forty years, I can speak with some knowledge about the loudness of commercials vs program. Commercials use extreme amounts of compression to boost the level. Also, shrill voices and fast talkers cause us to 'hear' sound as being louder even though the audio meter reads the maximum allowed FCC limit.

Posted by: Jay Conley | June 22, 2008 7:17 AM

I'm in the audio post production industry, so I know this issue very well.
A few years ago Dolby Labs released a piece of equipment SPECIFICALLY to tame this very problem. It's called the Dolby LM100. It's a smart box that literally reads the volume level of dialog and will then raise/lower the overall level to be more consistent on all programming.
The problem is, most people don't use it because no one will enforce it. and commercial/spot mixers are told to make it as loud as possible. (they'll do as they say to keep the work coming in.)
It's REALLY simple. Enforce the LM100 as a priority in programming and you'll see all the levels in HD programming be more consistent.

Posted by: Tim | June 22, 2008 1:21 PM

I don't see why they can not add it as a feature to the television receivers. Perhaps there is no economic reason to add this feature or some reasons to keep them out of production.

Posted by: Gary E. Masters | June 22, 2008 6:10 PM

I've read all the comments with interest and agree with the intent of the proposed legislation. But I'm wondering if the feds getting involved in this way 1) Takes time away from the real work that needs to be done (a la the baseball steroid hearings) and 2) Will the proposed legislation get the job done?

My proposal is simple: Let's all take charge of the situation for ourselves and boycott the products that are being hurled at us by the screamers. Let's resolve not to purchase anything hawked by the ultimate screamer, Billy Mays, for a starter. If we take some pro-active steps, maybe our our screaming, fast-talking friends might actually get the message. That, and the mute button, are the best defenses: one tactical and one strategic.

Posted by: LenK | June 22, 2008 6:49 PM

I really hope this is a joke. I agree loud commercials are annoying but that is why there is a volume control on the tv. I think the government has better things to do than save millions of americans from using their thumb every now and then. I would rather see my tax dollars working toward education, the war, health care etc. than worrying about tv commercials. I find this pathetic.

Everyone who agrees with congress getting into this, needs remove their heads from "you know where." There are better things to worry about.

Posted by: PatrickH | June 22, 2008 9:19 PM

I agree that the FCC has been very lax in controlling the volume levels of ads. They even state at the FCC that they don't take loud ad complaints. There is no 'reasonable' level control. I have contacted the director of programming for NBC Today show 2 times about the lead-in of their programming, where they flash an explosive light, a big boom, a loud swish and these forms of attention getters that are so LOUD, they upset people. People are trying to enjoy a program, news and the fourth of July is going off on the screen. Then they show dumb ads like Arby's and in 30 seconds they repeat the same ad.

Contacting the National and Local Station directors has not toned it down, so I guess it has to be controlled at the Federal level. I have contacted some of the companies to show my displeasure of their LOUD marketing methods and they do not answer emails or turn it down. They just pump more and more money into making it LOUDER and FLASHIER. What a waste of ad dollars.

Go back to the 60's and review how reasonable the ads were. They used common sense, quietly stated the benefit and sold the product, and they were more truthful than the lies being screamed at everyone today.

Why not buy a weed wacker with the ad stating 2 sentences, then a double swoosh, 2 more sentences and 2 more swooshes. How annoying. Or lets go out to eat like at the zoo, where you can sit there like 2 fat pigs, with 2 sandwiches in your hand, while the animals get away. Hey, show this same ad again in 30 seconds and the dumb TV viewers might have forgotten us by now.

I do not shop at merchants or buy products with ads that scream at me, or force me to preview their products in 30 pictures flashed by my eyes so fast, I cannot see the products they are featuring, like in the UFS ads in Peoria.

Let show some civility and self control.

Posted by: Loyal G | June 23, 2008 10:44 AM

Bar Billy Mays from making commercials! We won't buy anything he touts. Thank goodness for Mute.

Posted by: Jimmy P. | June 23, 2008 12:31 PM

Oh, and by the way, the bill won't do anything to remedy this problem. It's the fault of producers. But lets get it out there.
We watch a lot of educational and historical subject programming. Often the background music is so loud you can't hear the commentary and often a translation of foreign language comments is overridden loudly by the foreign language it's translating. And is there any way we can can those ads by what's coming up on the channel that appear across the bottom of the screen blocking much of the action and distracting from what you tuned in to watch? And we are sick of the logos for stations that appear in the lower right of the screen

Posted by: Jimmy P. | June 23, 2008 12:41 PM

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! This is pretty small compared to the need to do something about gas prices but I will take anything I can get right now. Yesterday, my family and I were trying to watch a show and the volume was on the low side so we had to turn up the sound to hear. Everytime a commercial came on I thought my head would explode. The sound from the commercials were almost 2x that of the show we were trying to watch. I think they should jut run a ticker at the bottom of the screen so it doesn't interfere with show. At least then I can cover it up so I don't have to see it.

Posted by: Steve | June 23, 2008 1:42 PM

It would be nice to be able to watch a TV program without all the interruptions but stations cost money to run.

Since station directors will disclaim any wrong doing for an ad being so loud and the advertiser will say it is the station directors fault, why not require all these clowns to give their email and street address of the ad agency that put these spots together. Then they will get DIRECT FEEDBACK from the public.

Many of these repeat ads that are constantly screaming at you, yelling that you need this or that, you are a loser if you don't have this or that, only xx dollars a month for life, guaranteed or your money back (maybe), be the first on your block, get one NOW, its a keeper are nothing more than harkers yelling to sell as they have no other society needed skills. (basically unemployed bumbs whos mouths run all the time-just shut up)

Just to show how dumb they think the public is, they show the same ad again less than a minute later. Some ads are shown 6-10 times in an hour. "Go to your local car dealer now!" (they are closed).

It is just plain stupid and a waste of money to advertise so much. Only raises the prices of the products.

I would like them to disclose the contact person (email and address) at the ad agency so I can post a review of their ad.

There is only so much information on the screen that a person can process. Showing a movie, include a ticker tape at the bottom for the latest news, lower left has the weather alert, lower right has the network, again in lower left pops up a message that so-and-so show premiers thursday. Come on guys, there is a limit. You all cannot be the boss or in charge.

Posted by: Loyal G | June 23, 2008 3:17 PM

While you are at it - why not limit infomercials to at most 2 per day. I am paying a fortune each month for channels that broadcast commercials all night long.

Is this what "our" air waves are for?

I am not a fan of polka music, but it beats Billy what ever his name is....

Posted by: Bill Curtis | June 23, 2008 3:57 PM

Great sign me up! That's the single most irritating thing about watching the boob-tube. But, I really feel sorry for those who pay for tv reception. Because it's a double whammy having to pay to watch commercials. Think about it.

I love the old-fashioned way of watching tv, OTA (over-the-air). The only way to watch tv, where the programs pay for the commercials. And then using the remote control to mute commercials is such a great tool. This is how I cope with the insanity of being bombarded by sales ads.

Posted by: SuzyQ. | June 23, 2008 4:17 PM

Yes, please! The loud volume not only hurts the ears, it makes people tense and anxious. Billy Mays is visible on my tv. If I get to the mute on time, I don't hear him. Loud commercials are a signal to me to switch channels.

It would appear to be an easy bill to enact. The war is not so easy. Poverty, health care, energy use, etc. are not as easily fixed, thought they do need to be. Congress has a chance to make a large share of the population happy without being very controversial.

Posted by: Peg | June 23, 2008 11:54 PM

YES! I think this is a worthwhile endeavor. Many people live in apartments and for what ever reason, shift work, might have the TV turned on and down at 3:00 A.M. Then on comes a commercial with the ability to penetrate walls! I have a TV which has a feature that's suppose to handle that but it doesn't. This has gone on way to long. My compliments to the Senator even through he is a republican. :)

Posted by: Billy Conn | June 24, 2008 12:25 PM

The worst one is that car ad that has the horn blowing, again and again, loud. And it's at night waking everyone up. Enough

Posted by: george | June 24, 2008 11:26 PM

A technological solution is possible; requiring TV manufacturers to implement a high-low threshold circuit that automatically sets a range of volume that's user adjustable.

If the FCC can force consumers to buy the new equipment or converters as part of the transition to digital broadcasting (with the side effect of making money for the equipment manufacturers), they surely could make this a requirement.

Posted by: carmanjw | June 26, 2008 10:48 AM

A technological solution is possible; requiring TV manufacturers to implement a high-low threshold circuit that automatically sets a range of volume that's user adjustable.

If the FCC can force consumers to buy the new equipment or converters as part of the transition to digital broadcasting (with the side effect of making money for the equipment manufacturers), they surely could make this a requirement.

Posted by: carmanjw | June 26, 2008 10:50 AM

Why on EARTH can't the TV companies make a TELEVISION that will AUTOMATICALLY ADJUST the volume of the programming (commercial, BOMB BLAST, unexpected loud music in the program that we are watching)so that the levels are REASONABLE and are PROGRAMMABLE? We should be able to do something like this with the technology that we have today. If I remember correctly, I believe that there is already something similar to this for RADIO! This way, everyone who is CONCERNED about this problem could BUY one of these TVs and the GOVERNMENT can get on with more IMPORTANT matters, LIKE running the COUNTRY (imagine THAT)!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 26, 2008 2:50 PM

Good idea as the same thing happens in New Zealand too. But, the Senator had better get his terminology right or, the broadcasters and advertisers will bypass any law change on a technicality.

The actual volume of the commercials stays the same as the programmes.

What is happening is that the sound in the commercial is being compressed to a higher level than that in the programmes which gives the impression that the volume is actually higher.

It is the same technique many radio stations use to make their signals heard over a greater distance.

Posted by: Paul from New Zealand | June 26, 2008 2:51 PM

What they said...but LOUDER! LOL:)

Turn it down, turn it off, tune in to your ears...hearing loss is big business in this country - can you say "EXPENSIVE HEARING AIDS" - and it's only getting worse.

TV and RADIO ads are notorious for this marketing technique - I've been aware of it since the mid-70s - and it's just now getting media attention?

Posted by: clc | June 26, 2008 6:03 PM

I wonder how many who agree with the law have actually called or written to the company to complain? Much easier to sit back and complain through blogs and IMs. If a business received enough complaints, they would realize their ads are not effective for marketing their product. But instead, we want our nanny govt. to step in and save us. Where does it stop? "Senator Obama, my TP is too rough. Can you make them produce softer wipe?"

Posted by: bob | June 27, 2008 8:22 AM

I thought I read that commercials, while they may sound louder than the program being viewed, are only as loud as the loudest moment in the program. So if the program has ambulance sirens screaming for only a second, the commercial can use the same level of noise.

Posted by: Carol | June 27, 2008 5:00 PM

I don't think congress and the FCC need to weigh in on this as there are readily more important matters. I can only hope that someday we will not be bombarded by any more e.d., bladder, herpes, bowel, gas, acid reflus, etc.

Posted by: Carol again | June 27, 2008 5:07 PM

Broadcasters and advertisers know that what people say they want, and how they actually behave, are quite different. It is well settled in the broadcast industry that the user will tune to the loudest signal on the dial, with content a secondary consideration. Accordingly, stations apply audio compression to make themselves sound louder while minimizing distortion. Not only does it not turn off listeners, the gambit attracts advertisers -- who do not spend money for nothing. While you may find radio advertising obnoxious and most station formats puerile, they remain productive investments. Similarly, thousands of complaints against offensive radio and TV shows pile up at the FCC, while measurements continue to show massive audiences for supposedly repulsive programs. Broadcast listeners and viewers may consider themselves sensitive and discriminating but their media consumption and economic behavior suggest otherwise.

Posted by: SkaFormatNow | July 2, 2008 10:37 AM

Yes, they should get involved! I'm tired of loud commercials.

There is a better and faster way to get the attention of the advertisers. Just go to their web site and leave them a nice note letting them know that you are tired of loud commercial tactics and will not be purchasing their product for the next few months. Then talk with a few of your friends and ask them to do the same. The more people who complain the sooner the advertiser will take corrective action. Companies advertise to increase sales not to annoy existing and potential customers.

Posted by: GT | July 3, 2008 10:20 AM

Advertisers, I get my own satisfaction by not buying your products.

Posted by: Jane Pickering | July 5, 2008 10:09 AM

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