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Lawmakers seek to turn down the dial on loud television commercials

The decades-long quest to lower the volume of television commercials may finally be nearing fruition.

Complaints about loud advertisements have been raised by television viewers since the 1960s. The absence of a federal law or rule that would prevent advertisers from blaring their commercials at volumes louder than the shows they sponsor is one of the great testaments to the difficulty to get much of anything done in telecommunications policy.

On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce Committee approved legislation introduced by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) that would require the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the volume of television advertisements. That follows a measure introduced last year by Sens. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), would require the volume of television advertisements to be no louder than the volume of the program during which the advertisements appear. Whitehouse's bill will now move to the Senate floor for consideration by the full chamber. The legislative push against loud TV ads has been spearheaded by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), whose bill passed the House last December.

If passed, the legislation would put an end to the suddenly loud pitch of car salesmen and wonder drugs that interrupt television viewing, Whitehouse said.

“Every American has likely experienced the frustration of abrasively loud television commercials jumping out at you,” said Whitehouse in a statement. “This practice is designed to intentionally disturb our households to attract attention to the ad, and the American public has had enough.”

The committee said that the FCC has received consumer complaints about commercials being louder than television shows since the 1960s. In the 25 quarterly reports on consumer complaints released by the FCC since 2002, 21 have listed the loudness of television commercials as a top complaint.

By Cecilia Kang  |  June 9, 2010; 5:38 PM ET
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Just another reason why I skip commercials with my Tivo. Honestly, I don't see probably 95% of the commercials out there.

Posted by: Alexander6 | June 9, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

We fast forward through the commercials for the most part, but when we watch TV "live" we still have to suffer through the obnoxious commercials. Advertising today is horrible! From the Oxy Clean guy (that guy is such a jerk!) to car ads blasting! I am sick of it. I avoid products that use bad tactics to get our attention.

Posted by: gdesignr1 | June 9, 2010 7:14 PM | Report abuse

What? We have a trillion-dollar deficit, two wars, and 2.5 million citizens in prison, and our legislators are hard at work to ... make watching TV less annoying?

This is a pathetic attempt by career politicians to look like they're "standing up for the little guy" without doing anything that would anger their big-money campaign donors. And, even more pathetically, we the voters always fall for it: we keep re-electing these demagogues who insult our intelligence.

Posted by: kcx7 | June 9, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Just use the mute button if you don't have a Tivo. My dad was famous for shouting "MUTE!" at the start of every round of commercials during the Redskins games. I employ this practice today, to great effect, when not using the Tivo.

Posted by: numbers1 | June 9, 2010 8:22 PM | Report abuse

This is such a no-brainer, but unfortunately, the advertising giants are probably gearing up at this very moment to wage total war against this piece of legislation, though a giant avalanche of . . . commercials.

I'm going to go in blind and guess that the ad campaign will be: 1. the legislation is un-American (don't take the remote out of the hands of America!), 2. somehow, it will cost millions of hard-working middle-class folks their jobs, 3. it will raise prices on milk, apple pie, and baseball, and 4. people actually *love* commercials, more than the TV programs they're watching, so it makes sense to have the volume higher.

Posted by: bucky_katt | June 9, 2010 11:27 PM | Report abuse

Isn't "live TV" about as dead as dead tree newspapers? Who cares? TIVO kills the commercials just fine. I've not seen a commercial in 3 years...Love it!

Posted by: moonwatcher2001 | June 10, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

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