FCC begins regulating volume levels in commercials

Broadcasters, major cable MSOs and satellite TV providers must begin monitoring the volume levels in commercials, with FCC rules spawned by the passage of the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act going into effect today.

Matt Polka, ACA

Polka (Image source: ACA)

President Obama signed the CALM Act into law in December 2010, responding to viewers complaining about the volume level during ads for ShamWow, OxiClean and other commercials blaring compared to the volume level during regular programs. The FCC adopted regulations last December that require pay TV providers and broadcasters to ensure that commercials have the same average volume level as the programs they accompany. But it is only beginning to enforce the rules today.

While the CALM Act will require Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV) and other major multichannel providers to use techniques established by the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) to monitor volume levels, the FCC said cable operators counting fewer than 400,000 subscribers won't be required to monitor volume levels unless the commission receives a "pattern of complaints" from subscribers.

American Cable Association CEO Matt Polka, who represents small cable operators in Washington, D.C., praised Rep Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who authored the CALM Act.

"Rep. Eshoo and Sen. Whitehouse correctly recognized that the industry had developed recommended practices for avoiding the annoyances of loud commercials, but these practices were not being closely followed by some industry participants," Polka said in a statement released Thursday. "As implemented by the FCC, the CALM Act will result in industry participants with the most control over TV commercial volume levels adhering more closely to these recommended practices--all to the benefits of consumers," he added.

For more:
- see the ACA statement

Related articles:
FCC passes CALM regulations, calls on consumers to report loud commercials
A CALM discussion with Matt Polka, president and CEO of the American Cable Association