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Yes, we should ban loud commercials

By Jo-Ann Armao

It isn’t the most pressing issue of our time. But it surely is one of the most annoying. So I’m putting aside my skepticism of government trying to solve all our social ills to cheer a bill working its way through Congress that would eliminate BLARINGLY LOUD television commercials.

H.R. 1084, the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM), got a big boost recently when the House Energy and Commerce Committee passed it on a voice vote. Sponsored by Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.), the measure would prevent television advertisements from playing at a volume noticeably above the programs during which they air. The bill will now go to the floor for consideration in the full House; Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) is said to be ready to introduce a similar measure in the Senate.

Okay, before you start: yes, I know how to work the mute button on my remote. Likewise, I know I can always leave the room. Or DVR programs so I can fast-forward through the commercials. But I don’t see why I -- or millions of other television viewers -- should have to suffer even one second of these obnoxious (not to mention harmful to hearing) advertisements. Having set the volume of my television, why should an outside entity be able to override that choice? Unhappiness with blaring commercials ranks as the most persistent consumer complaint with the Federal Communications Commission. The best it has managed to come up with is for viewers to be quick on the draw in hitting the mute button. The television and cable industry are moving to put voluntary standards in place, but it’s clear they only acted because of threat of congressional action.

Eshoo says that never in her 17 years in the House has she carried a bill for which there has been so much enthusiasm: “Only the ‘Do Not Call List has even come close.” And, that, to my mind, is another reason to like the bill: it’s a slim glimmer of hope at a time of bitter partisanship that there are still some issues on which Democrats and Republicans are able to put the rancor aside.

By Jo-Ann Armao  | November 30, 2009; 3:38 PM ET
Categories:  Armao  | Tags:  Jo-Ann Armao  
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value of a ten dollar customer ....sent a red straw to washington fund raiser to see what they thought of symbolism ...classical gas at the myerson i hope

Posted by: progressivegrocer | November 30, 2009 6:09 PM | Report abuse

I'm not crazy about loud commercials, but I'm also not crazy about laws that aren't thought out. The problem with "loud" commercials is that they are either (A) not louder or (B) are the result of a local provider inserting them into a network or cable feed. You might be able to fix B with expensive technology, and that's fair enough. But the loudness issue itself is a red herring -- it's not that they are louder but that they have more of their sound at the peak. In other words, you can have an entertainment show where most of the music is moderate, but the applause is loud and there may be a crescendo which is loud. The commercial that follows won't be louder than the applause or the crescendo, or the battle scene in a movie that also includes a quiet love scene. More of it will be at that peak volume, but none of it is any louder. How are you going to "legislate" so that the loud commercials can only follow the battle scenes and that commercials following love scenes have to be quieter? Research before you legislate!

Posted by: MikePeterson1 | November 30, 2009 10:31 PM | Report abuse

An easier to enforce solution would be to require two volume controls on a TV. One for minimum volume as at present, and the other for maximum volume.

Posted by: JohnjYehl | December 1, 2009 9:37 AM | Report abuse

Simple. I mute all commercials.

Posted by: jckdoors | December 1, 2009 10:19 AM | Report abuse

Most of the comments display a better understanding as to why commercials are precieved to be louder than program content. Commercials are no louder than the lousdest sound that can legally be broadcast on T.V., It's that they are that loud for the duration of the commecial. This is achieved by compressing the dynamic range of the sounds in a commercial so that there is little difference between the softest sound and the loudest. Once you have this narrow band of volume then it's easy to run that chunk of content at the legal limit of loudness. If you really want to limit the loudness of commercials, offer T.Vs with audio compressors so the viewer can compress (narrow) the over all sound for his unit just as the producers of commecials do for their products. If the content of programs and commercials are both in the same dynamic range, the a standard volume can be set for your viewing comfort. It's the same concept that is used in the production of pop music. Haven't you ever wondered why you don't have keep adjusting the volume on your stereo when you play a Michael Jackson CD?

Gordon B. Abel
Minneapolis, Mn

Posted by: grdnabel | December 1, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

MikePeterson1, I agree that there are technical issues involved but I disagree that they are out of the control of the broadcasters. They can easily do some equalization to level out the audio. The loud commercials are a deliberate ploy by the marketeers in the mistaken belief that it will get them more customers.

Posted by: polijunkie100 | December 1, 2009 12:48 PM | Report abuse

I've complained many times over the years to TV stations and cable companies. They all say the same thing: "The commercial isn't loud, the program audio is too quiet." Bunch of you know what. The mute button has become my best friend. Too bad the sponsors don't realize they're losing business by tolerating or encouraging the -louder- commercials.

Posted by: ccs82 | December 1, 2009 12:56 PM | Report abuse

Thank goodness. These ads are an assault and in insult. There's no excuse for them--they directly assault the viewer, who is the television channel's actual customer, and the product's intended customers. But what these clowns don't take into account is that a lot of the public would NEVER BUY ANY OF THE JUNK THAT IS PURVEYED BY THESE OFFENSIVE ADS, EVEN IF THE GOODS THEY WERE ADVERTISING WERE NOT CRAP.

Posted by: douglasblee | December 1, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

If screaming commercials are the result of a technical problem, why does the problem occur every time specific commercials appear and only when those specific commercials appear?

Posted by: DEFJAX | December 1, 2009 2:36 PM | Report abuse

While we're at it, can we also ban the sound of car crashes and sirens in radio ads? They're not only startling, they're potentially dangerous.

Posted by: valandsend | December 1, 2009 3:22 PM | Report abuse

I'm not too keen on legislation concerning this issue. Seems to have too many pitfalls and loopholes which breed unnecessary legal battles.

Heres how I handle such advertisements:

Swear loudly.
Turn down the volume.
Never -EVER- purchase the product.

If we all adhered to #3 on my list, market testing would prove that loud commercials have the precise opposite of the desired intent.

But as long as you continue to support products with garish ads you will receive more of the same. Marketing that doesn't work...doesn't continue. Clearly they are working. Blame yourselves.

Posted by: trident420 | December 1, 2009 3:55 PM | Report abuse

jckdoors wrote: "Simple. I mute all commercials"

Even simpler. I don't have a TV.

Posted by: observer100 | December 1, 2009 7:36 PM | Report abuse

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