Putting a Stop to Loud TV Commercials

Posted on October 16, 2009

Super loud commercials may soon be a thing of the past. So why are they so loud? So that you will still hear them if you leave the room. How will they be stopped? Two ways, The FCC already mandates that commercials can't be louder than the loudest part of the program they interrupt. If you're watching an action movie, that's no help at all.

But this approach has serious limitations. An action show that climaxes in a burst of gunfire is one thing; a commercial that's as loud as a gun going off from start to finish is another -- especially if the lead-in to the commercial is relatively quiet. And in addition to making their commercials as loud as the FCC lets them, marketers also use various technological tricks to make them sound even louder than they are, like packing more sound energy into midrange frequencies, the ones that the human ear is most sensitive to.

To close this loophole, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) introduced a bill in the House of Representatives last year, the Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation Act. CALM would charge the FCC to enact regulations prohibiting commercials from being "excessively noisy or strident." The House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold a hearing to consider amendments on the bill Thursday.

And a parallel effort within the TV and consumer-electronics industries may also bear fruit soon. The Advanced Television Systems Committee, a nonprofit whose membership includes broadcast networks, cable operators, and electronics manufacturers, has been working to develop voluntary standards that will let broadcasters measure and effectively modulate the volume of commercials.

We say: we don't care how you stop them, just stop them. We hate loud commercials and always mute them. We wouldn't mute them if they weren't so loud and annoying, so really it's in the advertisers' best interested to tone it down.

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