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FCC takes steps to lower the volume of TV advertisements

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler testifies before the Communications and Technology Subcommittee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, May 20, 2014. (AFP PHOTO / Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday published a final rule that is expected to lower the volume of television ads beginning in 2015.

The FCC rule is its latest action under the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, or the CALM Act. That 2010 law bans broadcasters from running ads at volumes that are higher than the TV shows they support, and is a reaction to complaints from viewers about the spike in volume that seemed to accompany many TV ads.

The Federal Communications Commission, run by Chairman Tom Wheeler, has released a new rule aimed at quieting down some of the TV ads being broadcast. AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON

The bill was sponsored by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), who was once bombarded by a loud TV ad and asked her brother-in-law to turn down the volume. "Well, you're the congresswoman," he said to Eshoo. "Why don't you do something about it?"

The FCC's latest regulatory tweak to its implementation of the law is aimed at making it harder for the volume to spike during a brief portion of a TV ad.

Under current rules, ads must maintain an average volume. But some ads meet that average volume by including silent passages, which then allows them to include very loud sections — the quiet and loud parts average out, allowing the ad to meet the average volume requirement.

The FCC rule is aimed at eliminating that tactic, and the FCC said its "recommended practice," or RP, should lead to some reduction in the volume of ads.

"[O]nce this successor PR is implemented, consumers may notice a modest decrease in the perceived loudness of certain commercials," the FCC said.

The rule takes effect June 4, 2015 — unfortunately, after this year's mid-term elections.

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