December 23rd, 2009
05:25 PM ET
7 years 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. Bassman

    More proof that Liberals want to invade our homes and our privacy. Is there no end to Government control. My TV is blessed with volumn control. I think I can use it for myself, and do not need Govt telling me how loud my own TV needs to be. Whats next?

    December 23, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  2. Terry from West Texas

    You can write this down in your diaries, folks. This bill will NEVER become a law. Every competent advertising agency can tell you exactly how many more dollars their clients make because of noisy commercials. Advertisers do not care whether you are annoyed or not. While a noisy ad may irritate 95% of the people who see it, 5% (I'm just making up numbers here) are interested in the product and their attention has been captured by the loud volume. Sports announcers are louder than most commercials, but sports fans don't care because they are totally focused on the game. Those who find pro sports completely uninteresting find the sound of them very obnoxious.

    America's corporations will lose more money if this bill passes than it will cost to bribe Congress to quietly drop it.

    Mark my words.

    December 23, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  3. Dana (Maryland)

    There are several automatic-volume-control devices on the market, which go between your TV (or cable box) line-out and your audio amplifier line input, and which cost about $20. They keep the audio level constant.

    December 23, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  4. LARRY

    I pray this bill passes, I want to set my remote control down for a while.
    It is the role of government to help the people when they are not rich and powerful. Republicans think the government should just help them(work people for low wages or steal peoples money). A real American government is for ALL the people, something you don't see anymore. Back to the issue, you should not have to adjust your volume up and down all the time. Common sense people, make a good commercial at regular volume and your product will sell. as it stands I turn it down and tune it out.

    December 23, 2009 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  5. Independent_me


    Those stupid marketers only make us consumers mad. They are so rude! Good riddance to bad rubbish!

    December 23, 2009 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  6. Biased

    In all honesty, I'd rather turn down the volume on the politicians who spin and lie more than the commercials. What would they like to do next – pick which channel I watch?

    December 23, 2009 06:58 pm at 6:58 pm |
  7. DC

    Thank GOD! Please do this as soon as possible.

    December 23, 2009 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  8. CBR

    The millions upon millions of dollars being spent on campaigns would probably feed, house, and cloth many Americans who are in great financial difficulty.

    The money spent by lobbyists, the Chamber of Commerce, anti-reform groups, pro-reform groups, and the costs of salaries for those in Congress who refuse to negotiate and work together for reform would probably be enough to provide health care insurance to the uninsured. We certainly do know how to spend money on the wrong things in this country. WE just do not stop to think that the money could be spent far better than on political issues.

    December 23, 2009 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  9. Ken in NC

    Now this would really be sad if Congress can't come together of turning down the volume on the TV. I have had all my TV's for about 10 years so I am not familiar with the new fancy sets. Have companies stopped putting UP and DOWN Volume buttons on the remote controls now? Give me a break. People you need to start doing for yourselves. You can see from the way Congress acts that you don't need to depend them for action. Congress couldn't find it way out of an ice cube after it melts.

    December 23, 2009 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  10. ???

    I always wondered why some commercials were louder than others. I did not know that it was done on purpose. I seem to turn my tv down or when I am on the computer I mute the advertisements. Well, now that I know I hope they will do something about this annoyance.

    December 23, 2009 07:15 pm at 7:15 pm |
  11. Steve Lyons

    How about a better bill that let's viewers opt-out of commercials altogether? The democrats like these opt-out deals. Give me a way to shut out ALL commercials including the product placement ads that are appearing in video games and in the shows themselves.

    December 23, 2009 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  12. J.C. - Independent 4 Public Option

    Not only do they turn up the volume but they also repeat the same commercials so many times that it hurt my brain. It gets to the point that we can't watch anything meaningful so we just cut the cable. It's been six years and we just love the life without cable. With internet, who needs cable? Reading is even better.

    December 23, 2009 07:26 pm at 7:26 pm |
  13. Michael

    Here's the solution: watch tv with your remote in your hand and mute the commercials the second they come on. I always have a book in my lap so I read something that can be easily interrupted not to waste any time during the commercials. If a commercial does interests you, you can watch it the first time with the sound on. Commericials don't shape my buying habits anyway, Madison Avenue to the contrary.

    December 23, 2009 07:27 pm at 7:27 pm |
  14. Bill from CA

    This legislation should be called the "Billy Mays Act"

    December 23, 2009 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  15. Todd Compton

    This has been a constant irritant since we were forced to digital TV. Analog TV was already regulated in this manner and I have never understood why digital advertisement was not! Thank you SO very much!!

    December 23, 2009 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  16. rob

    Although I do not like loud commercials, I do find them useful for the following:

    1) avoid buying anything from the companies that bought them

    2) tells me when to go to the kitchen/bathroom/leave the TV alone

    3) When it quiets down, tells me when to go back and watch the TV

    December 23, 2009 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  17. Mauiharper

    It's about time. Those loud commercials are annoying and I will not do business with any company who uses this ugly tactic. This is why the GOP can't have control, they're all about big business and don't care about individuals. Check it out that a Democrat had to do this. Next – let's take on the health insurance industry sleazebags!

    December 23, 2009 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  18. B

    Now if we could pass a Bill to eliminate the – Lowest Common Denominator – content......

    December 23, 2009 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  19. bennie new york

    Is this seriously what our leaders are legislating? This is as silly and banal as the Monkey Interstate Commerce Act.

    December 23, 2009 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  20. Thomas

    Some say this is a dumb bill. Maybe, but it's great!!!!!!

    December 23, 2009 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  21. Peewee

    I love that you are doing this, but hardly think it should be prioritzed ahead of ilegal imigration.

    December 23, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  22. not alone

    Finally a bill that everyone one in America can get behind. I gave up watching TV over them loud comericials along with all the death and reality shows.

    December 23, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  23. dustin

    This should take the government no longer than 5 minutes to pass, i think we can get this done.

    December 23, 2009 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  24. Sue

    Loud commercials don't bother me. I hit the MUTE button and don't listen at all.

    They're a pain in the neck, and I refuse to turn down the volume to hear their message when I can hit MUTE and ignore them completely. That's probably lousy advertising policy, but it ain't my problem.

    December 23, 2009 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  25. Old Artillery Man

    Now if they had also cut the amount of time devoted to commercials it would have been a wonderful bill!

    December 23, 2009 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
1 2 3 4 5