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FCC Will Soon Quiet Down Those Loud Commercials

"You're going to help save my marriage."

Is your TV remote's mute button worn with overuse from years of silencing commercials during your favorite primetime TV show hour? Well your favorite button may get a bit of rest next year, as the Federal Communications Commission is set to quiet unreasonably loud commercials by requiring a constant volume to be maintained on broadcast, cable and satellite TV.

Making commercials several decibels louder than regular programming is a technique used to get attention and has also been cause for consumer complaint. But last year Congress passed the CALM Act (Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation), which President Obama signed into law, to give the FCC the authority to regulate said commercial volume.

USA Today reports that the regulation of volume by the FCC will go into effect next December:

The order, which goes into effect one year from today, "says commercials must have the same average volume as the programs they accompany," says FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski.


While normal listening levels average about 70 decibels for a typical TV broadcast — 60 is equivalent to a restaurant conversation; 80 to a garbage disposal — levels on a TV channel can vary by as much as 20 decibels.

To comply with the new law, broadcasters can use audio processors to measure the loudness of a program over its entirety and adjust the volume of commercials accordingly, says Joe Snelson, vice president of the Society of Broadcast Engineers. He said the goal is to avoid an abrupt change in volume when a show goes to commercial break.

Ralph Gardner, Jr., writes rather jokingly, but still in all seriousness, in the Wall Street Journal that taking commercial volume down a notch will not only save America's ears -- and mute buttons -- but marriages:

No more than five minutes earlier my wife might have been watching the TV alongside me, complaining about the Wagnerian volume of the commercials just as vociferously as me. But as soon as she turns over and goes to bed it's no longer corporate America's fault; it's my fault.

"I was walking around the floor of the House, and members would tell me, 'You're going to help save my marriage,'" said Anna Eshoo, the courageous California congresswoman who sponsored the legislation. "It was a one-page bill. It really struck a chord with people everywhere."

Before the passage of the law last year, the FCC did not have the authority to regulate commercial volume, which Wired pointed out at the time was a surprise considering it can fine channels thousands of dollars for curse words or "wardrobe malfunctions." Before this authority was allotted to it, the FCC did have a an overview of volume control on its website and several sound mitigation techniques that could be employed in an effort to stifle the noise.

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