December 23rd, 2009
05:25 PM ET
10 months ago

Bill would turn down volume of TV commercials

Washington (CNN) - It's after dinner. You're tired. You ease yourself into a comfortable place to watch your favorite TV show. Suddenly you're jolted from your couch potato demeanor by a commercial break.

It's an ad for insurance or rum or a credit card - and it's blaring, invading your calm and boosting your blood pressure.

Marketers want the loud commercials to grab viewers' attention.

A California congresswoman, however - and her fellow politicians in the House - find them more annoying than effective.

In her crusade to eliminate the nuisance, Rep. Anna Eshoo authored the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, or CALM, which mandates that TV commercials be no louder than the programs in which they appear.

Representatives unanimously passed the bill last month and sent it to the Senate for consideration.

The brief measure directs the Federal Communications Commission to develop regulations preventing ads from being "excessively noisy or strident" or "having modulation levels substantially higher than the accompanying program." The bill also addresses "average maximum loudness."

The volume of television commercials is a common complaint among viewers. One man told CNN, "Every time you put on the TV and try and watch a show, the next thing you get are these really loud commercials."

A woman added, "I usually mute the television."

"This is a dumb bill but I love it. I really do," said media analyst Mark Hughes. He said that for irritated Americans it strikes a nerve, even though it's not a huge political issue.

"It's important to people. And it's important in my household that I don't wake up the kids when they're sleeping, and I don't tick off my wife when she tells me to turn it down" because of a commercial's high volume.

Eshoo said she's been swamped with mail, e-mail and phone calls from people who have thanked her for the bill.

Political strategist John Ashford said there is some attraction to an issue that is manageable, as opposed to the complex issues Congress often struggles with.

"Having worked on Capitol Hill and now working in public relations, I know that when Congress can't solve big problems like Iraq and Afghanistan and 10 percent unemployment and how to implement this health care bill they are trying to pass, they turn to small problems like blasting television commercials.

Under the measure, advertisers and production houses would have one year to adopt technology that modulates and sets sound levels - and apply it to TV commercials.

The FCC will do its part, a source there said.

– CNN's Louise Schiavone contributed to this report.

soundoff (114 Responses)
  1. Accident

    Good Idea!

    December 23, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  2. The Lonely Libertarian of Liverpool NY

    That's what I like common sense. Anna goes to the head of the class with this law.

    December 23, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  3. Citizen B

    Bravo!!!!

    December 23, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  4. Elizabeth

    STOP with the attempted control of every minute aspect of our lives. This is NOT the role of government!!!.

    December 23, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  5. Justin Moravetz

    Yes please. This is a very annoying issue. Online streamed TV or traditional, this is a problem for the people.

    December 23, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  6. michaelam

    Wow, there truly is a God! Thank you!

    December 23, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  7. SaL

    Finally a government that's working for us !!

    December 23, 2009 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  8. walleye

    I never new commericals were like this intentionally. I always thought there was something wrong with my cable provider, and kept calling Comcast to fix this LOUD obnoxious advertising. Its about time someone is doing something about it.

    December 23, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  9. Fitz in Texas

    If people in government have this much time on their hands to waste time on something like this....they need to be fired. Grow up people. You don't need the government to wipe your butts all the time. It's called a MUTE button...hit the dang thing as soon as the commercials start. I've been doing it for years and without any help from the government! Sheesh, grow up people and stop being so lazy.

    December 23, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  10. Robert

    I always have to turn the volume down during commercials. It's so annoying! Thank you for doing something about it.

    December 23, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  11. Barjack

    I also despise the volume of commercials, but I'm not a huge fan of television so it doesn't much affect me. I'm waiting for the day when the CNN ticker reads: "Congress passes bill to require drive-thru windows be closer and lower to accomodate drivers' fat, weak arms." I'm not a fan of annoying commercial advertising (I will NEVER apply Head On directly to my forehead, or anywhere thanks to their mind-numbing adds), but I'm also not a fan of laziness in a scenario where a mute button exists.

    December 23, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  12. michael armstrong sr. TX.

    I hate commercials and I especially hate loud scare you to death commercials .

    December 23, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  13. Mickey

    It's about time...now all we need is to keep those annoying pharmaceutical commercials off of television.

    December 23, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  14. Mack

    While they are at it, they should outlaw the use of doorbells in commercials and limit them and door knocks in shows so my dogs don't go nuts everytime.

    December 23, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  15. Shane

    It's good that the government is taking steps to rid us of annoyance. Now, Congress, MAKE DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME PERMANENT — NO MORE TIME CHANGES!

    December 23, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  16. Anonymous

    Thank you! Thank you! I mute the TV.

    December 23, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  17. Nunya

    It's sad that the government needs to step in for this. The production companies should have enough sense to *know* that it's insanely annoying to their customers. And the customers should have sense enough to let the businesses know.

    If this doesn't pass, people should make a point of calling their cable company to complain every time an excessively loud commercial comes on. When they get enough complaints they would fix it. Don't just complain to your family or friends about commercials being too loud – make your complaints to the right place to get something done about it, your cable or satellite provider or the network you're watching.

    December 23, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  18. ran

    Great. See people Govenment can be good for us.

    December 23, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  19. nails

    having worked in the Advertising Industry as a commercial mixer in Los Angeles, I can't count the amount of times some jerk producer would tell me to "TURN IT UP MAN! THIS HAS TO BE LOUDER THAN ______" (fill in your favorite competitor).

    Just set a standard that everyone can follow and put a limiter on anything above the specs. But good luck, you're going against some of the wealthiest corporations in the world on this one.

    December 23, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  20. T

    It's about time they passed something that was worthy.

    December 23, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  21. alex

    where has this been all my life? next they should target those horrible radio commercials, eh i guess radio's a dying medium anyway.

    December 23, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  22. Corwin7

    I beg your pardon...I mention it every time I pay my cable bill and they simply pass the blame off to the producers of the advertising....I have actually worn the volume key out on my remote trying to manually modulate the volume level on my tv. It IS infuriating!

    December 23, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  23. Bob Hobbs

    It's about time to correct an unfair irritant which has been employed for years.
    Let's hope the bill gets passed, over the power of the Washington lobbyists and special interests.

    December 23, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  24. Bill

    No detail is too small for government meddling. With all the real problems in the world why not pick one out that's worthy? I doubt the government will handle the TV volume right anyway. Makes me shudder to think how they'll handle this healthcare monster they're creating.

    December 23, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  25. Bill from CA

    Someone in this thread mentioned this should be 'common sense' for the advertisers and another complained of the government getting involved with too much of our lives. The problem is that companies are required to operate within the guidelines of the law, not the guidelines of decency and/or common sense. If they can do something that defies common sense but not the law, then they are legally entitled. One of the responsibilities of our government, however, is to ensure our rights and protections aren't violated when those companies do that, and if they feel they have gone to far, they are perfectly within their rights to initiate legislation to protect us from this kind of crap. So kudos to Rep. Eshoo for helping get rid of that crap.

    December 23, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
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