Whatever Happened to the 2010 TV Commercial Volume Law?

In December, 2010, President Obama signed the Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act, which required television broadcasters to turn down the volume on those annoyingly loud commercials that suddenly blast your ears out during your favorite TV shows. The new law ordered broadcasters to air commercials at the same average volume as the TV shows during which they appear. But now, almost two years later, TV commercials are still annoyingly loud. So what happened to the law?

It’s about to come into effect. The CALM Act gave broadcasters a huge amount of time to get ready to turn the racket down. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had until December 15, 2011 to create regulations for TV commercial volumes, and then it was one more year  until the new rules went into effect. The new rules go into effect on December 13, 2012. That’s also when enforcement starts. The CALM Act applies to all television stations, cable and satellite broadcasters, basically any form of pay TV. But don’t give up the mute button is just yet. Complying with the new rules requires broadcasters to buy new equipment, and the ACT allows broadcasters to ask the FCC for a one-year waiver if they can prove they will suffer financial hardship due to the new regulations.  Nevertheless, the new rules do go into effect December 13, so if you are still encountering TV commercials after then that suddenly blast your eardrums out, you can file a complaint with the FCC by calling 1-888-CALL FCC (1-888-225-5322), or fax your complaint to 1-866-418-0232, or send it by mail to FCC Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau, Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division, 445 12th Street SW, Washington, D.C. 20554. Include the time, channel, a description of the offending commercial, whether you were watching pay TV or broadcast television using an antenna, and your contact information. A fact sheet about the CALM Act is available here (pdf).

3 comments for “Whatever Happened to the 2010 TV Commercial Volume Law?

  1. Arn McConnell
    November 4, 2013 at 11:06 am

    Anne, I agree with you in at least 99% of your political views, but I have to say this is one stupid law. I can tell you that the station where I work has taken the law VERY seriously, and spent a lot of money on equipment and procedural changes to make sure we’re in compliance. But I can virtually guarantee it won’t stop complaints, because the problem isn’t that commercials are louder than the TV shows in which they’re inserted, or even that they are louder than the average volume of that show — it’s that they’re louder than whatever the volume was at the end of the outgoing show segment. Even abiding by the law, if a station runs a “Ford Tough” commercial coming out of a quiet scene on an intense drama or movie, it’s going to SEEM loud. And the law will do nothing to address the problem cited in Ron Weaver’s comment above — it doesn’t address the volume of THE SHOW ITSELF (which it seems is his complaint). There are already laws governing that, and to my knowledge, all stations comply (although I don’t work at and can’t vouchsafe for KREX, which runs “Hawaii 5-0”). Anyway, I’m all for holding stations accountable, but this is a problem of human perception, one that can’t be really addressed either technologically or politically (short of banning commercial television).

  2. Ron Weaver
    October 4, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    Does this law affect shows like Hawaii 5 o ?there music is so loud that I have to hold the volume control thought the show .i like the show the volume sucks.

    • Anne Landman
      October 4, 2013 at 10:25 pm

      Yes, all shows. Report them to the FCC.

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