Congress turns down the volume on TV ads

Taking aim at a national annoyance, Congress has sent President Obama legislation that lowers the volume on loud TV ads.

“Consumers have been asking for a solution to this problem for decades, and today they finally have it,” said Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Menlo Park), chief sponsor of the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation, or CALM, Act.

When Obama signs the measure, “it will bring relief to millions of television viewers across the country,” she said.

Under the legislation, the Federal Communications Commission must require advertisers, within a year, to adopt industry technology aimed at lowering the volume on televised sales pitches

To those who might suggest the solution to blaring ads is the mute button, Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) asked what happens if you can’t find the remote.


“How many times a night does this scenario play out? You’re on your couch; you’re watching a nice program … and the commercial comes on and it’s really loud,” he said this week. “Your spouse in the other room, with her impatient voice, says, ‘Turn that down,’ but you can’t find the remote.”

Terry noted that several of his colleagues had said that more government regulation was not needed.

“But for that living room on that night, it was sure helpful to restore calm,” Terry said.

“TV programs use a variety of sound levels to build dramatic effect. But advertisements have been neither subtle nor nuanced,” Eshoo said. “My bill reduces commercial volume, allowing them to only be as loud as the decibel level of regular programming.”

The bill passed on a voice vote Thursday night.

“While this is far from the biggest issue we face, it will mean one less daily annoyance in our lives,” added Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who helped push the bill through the Senate earlier.