Just when I’d given up hope that the present Congress could accomplish anything, I have discovered that our representatives in Washington have actually enacted legislation that will have a positive effect on my life and the lives of anyone who watches television. On Dec. 13, 2011, Congress passed the “Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act” known by the acronym “CALM Act” to regulate the volume of television commercials. The act was signed into law with a one-year delay so that it became effective last week, on Dec. 13.
The CALM Act actually does something to make our everyday lives more pleasant. I cannot remember all of the times I have been watching a television show when, suddenly, a commercial comes blasting out at several times the volume of the show itself. I tend to be a little hard of hearing so I often will turn up the volume to hear a particular show or film. But just when I have adjusted the volume so that I can hear what is being said a commercial comes on so loud that I literally jump out of my chair. It has been something that has annoyed me for years.
The intent behind the change in volume is obvious: Advertisers want to make sure that viewers pay close attention to their message. The way some do this is by setting the volume of the commercial far higher than that of the show it accompanies. Certainly, in my case, they achieve their goal. The commercials are often so loud that I have to grab the remote and quickly adjust the volume down for fear of becoming totally deaf. And, of course, once the show comes back on, I have to adjust the volume again in order to hear it. I know that some folks simply record everything they want to watch and then fast forward past the commercials but sometimes I like to watch my favorite programs when they are broadcast.
The CALM Act makes it illegal for advertisers to broadcast commercials at volumes higher than the programs that the commercials accompany and empowers the Federal Communications Commission to take action against advertisers who do not comply with the act. Viewers who discover commercials that do not comply can now complain to the FCC and, if the FCC finds that advertisers have, in fact, broadcast commercials at higher volumes than programs, it can take action.
I know that the CALM Act is not nearly so important as many other pieces of legislation that Congress has before it. It will not solve the nation’s fiscal problems nor reform the health system, but it will certainly make television viewing more pleasant. Score one for Congress!