December 23rd, 2009
05:25 PM ET
9 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. Mark in Utah

    wow. Can someone please explain how this is within the powers of any governing body in a country with freedom of expression?

    We do have mute buttons on televisions, you know.

    December 23, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  2. Brian from Chicago

    Finally! Something we can all agree on!

    December 23, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  3. Brian from Chicago

    Now can we get rid of the animations in the bottom third of my screen?

    December 23, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  4. Jeff

    Good.

    December 23, 2009 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  5. Jim L

    Try to define "no louder than the program" and you'll find that programs will have loud parts and quiter parts. Typical of democrats to try to appear as caring but with no good results.

    December 23, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  6. Steve

    I cannot believe nobody ever thought to do this before. This is a brilliant idea and I hope Obama gets to sign this very soon. So many people hate having to constantly change volume when it goes to a commercial. For those like Elizabeth who don't see the bigger picture, production companies resisted altering the volume for commercials to appease "big business." These companies pay production houses large sums of money for ad time so they can get their message out as LOUD and as clearly as possible. See how annoying that was that i wrote "loud" in all-caps? Its nice to see Congress as a whole stand up to these companies and pass some common sense legislation for a change. Kudos!

    December 23, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  7. conservative

    The device needed is a volume control button not a power drunk politician bent on controlling our lives!

    December 23, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  8. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    Great, batteries are expensive and have a short life when adjusting volumes up/down due to loud screaming commercials.

    December 23, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  9. Ed Schilling

    It's about time sombody did something about the tactics used in commercials. Make sue you create big fines payable to everyone that complains about a loud commerical in the future.
    $10,000 should be about right..............

    December 23, 2009 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  10. Erik

    And don't forget those cell phones ringing in commercials! How many times have you got up or looked at your phone because you thought it was your phone ringing – instead of the one in the stupid commercial.

    Let"s ban all the idiotic pharmaceutical adds too! Drugs should be prescribed by a physician because of need – not given away because hypochondriac patients want them!

    What next?

    December 23, 2009 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  11. Steve

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

    This isn't a liberal vs. conservative issue...its a common sense issue!

    December 23, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  12. Carmelle

    Thank you, thank you, thank you...I thought I was going crazy and it was just me! Please pass this bill. Those Empire commercials are driving me crazy as well as the Billy Mays commercials.

    December 23, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  13. Joshua College Station Texas

    Wow. A bill that makes sense. I don't think too many folks are going to disagree on this one.

    It's definitely not the most important thing, but it's nice to see Congress addressing an everyday issue that most folks care about.

    December 23, 2009 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  14. Eric

    Billy Mays (the oxyclean guy) must be spinning in his grave...

    December 23, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  15. Eric

    So funny reading the conservative "government intrusion" spin on this. Like those dogs in yards that bark at every noise they hear.

    December 23, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  16. g

    why waste time on something so insignificant, it's not like it's related to the well being of society

    loud commercials? we need a law to fix loud commercials? it just seems a little ridiculous there's actually official legislation on this

    December 23, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  17. adam russell

    What we need is a tv that has 2 volume controls. The average volume which would be what we have now, and then another volume that controls maximum volume. Then control would be in the hands of the consumer instead of the regulators.

    December 23, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  18. Believe!(in reality)

    Companies paying big $$$ to advertising firms need to get some independent research to see just how much backlash they're provoking toward their products by using techniques such as excessively loud advertisements, slurping, lip-smacking, crunching noises, etc. They irritate the hell out of me and I always hit MUTE when commercials come on that try to "grab my attention" with these Pavlovian tricks. My impression of the associated products is not favorable, so I make specific choices when shopping to avoid buying them. Here's a good analogy: how friendly do you feel toward that loud H-D motorcycle that deafens you, or the hopped-up, "race"-inspired small sedan with the loud exhaust that races in and out around other cars? Both are very noticeable, but I'll bet few feel all warm and fuzzy when experiencing these irritations.

    December 23, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  19. KJL

    Hooray! This ranks up there with the National "Do Not Call" registry, the best piece of legislation to ever come out of the Bush era. Advertisers: we appreciate your sponsorship to bring us our programming, but PLEASE STOP YELLING!!!! Keep your volume the same as the shows we watch. Thank you.

    December 23, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  20. Joycie

    I am all for this.. I have made it a policy to mute any of the loud commercials and not buy those products.. I can hardly think of anything more irritating on TV these days.

    December 23, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  21. Randy, San Francisco

    There should be bi-partisan support for this bill. Even the GOP, the party of NO, should vote for this bill. The tired and old GOP argument that it will hurt businesses won't wash on this one.

    December 23, 2009 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  22. Pete

    How bizarre – people still watch commercials in 2009? I thought that's what the fast-forward button was for.

    December 23, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  23. Joe in PA

    It's astounding there are people who actually oppose this. Government control? Are you serious? How can having teeth-jarring commercials possibly be a *good* thing?

    I noticed the complainers are mostly conservative Republicans - most likely the people who can afford to have their butlers turn down the volume during commercials.

    December 23, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  24. Mark

    Thumbs up to this legislation!

    December 23, 2009 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  25. Wont-vote-gop-if-my-life-depended-on-it

    For everybody who's complaining that this bill is not important enough.... it accomplishes more than what the 40 odd blow-hards in the Senate (aka republicans) have accomplished in the last year.

    December 23, 2009 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
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