ROWLAND: Bill to force ads on TV to keep it down

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If some House lawmakers have their way, “excessively noisy” television advertisements will become illegal.

Earlier this month, Rep. Anna G. Eshoo, California Democrat, introduced the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation - abbreviated as “CALM” - Act, a bill that would “preclude commercials from being broadcast at louder volumes than the program material they accompany.”

In a June 13 statement, Mrs. Eshoo touted the legislation as a way of reducing the annoyance experienced by American TV viewers.

“Most Americans are not overjoyed to watch television commercials, but they are willing to tolerate them to sustain free over-the-air television,” she said. “What annoys all of us is the sudden increase of volume when commercials are aired.”

Surely the bill is targeting the borderline-bloodcurdling screams of local car dealers who appear to reason that the louder they convey their information, the more likely viewers will be to receive it favorably. (Cue perennial loudmouths car dealer Ms. Koons, government money evangelist Mr. Lesko and OxiClean promoter Mr. Mays.)

Mrs. Eshoo continued: “A TV program has a mix of audio levels. “There are loud and soft parts. Nuance is used to build the dramatic effect. Most advertisers don’t want nuance. They want to grab our attention, and to do this, they record every part of it as loud as possible.”

The CALM Act, which has 39 co-sponsors, would instruct the media-regulating Federal Communications Commission to create rules within one year that would bar excessively noisy TV ads. The two-page bill itself does not include any specific measurements regarding the prevalence of, or definitions of, excessive noise.

A noisy ad, according to Mrs. Eshoo, “annoys all of us,” but some, such as Adam Thierer of the Progress & Freedom Foundation (PFF), are not pleased that elected officials are concerning themselves with our eardrums.

“As we all learned in our high school Civics 101 classes, this was why the American Revolution was fought: We Americans have an unambiguous constitutional birthright to be free from the tyranny of ‘excessive loudness´ during commercial breaks,” Mr. Thierer, a director of the free-market group’s Center for Digital Media Freedom, wrote on the PFF blog last week.

“I look forward to the day when I can visit the FCC and see my tax dollars at work as teams of bureaucrats closely monitor each episode of ‘Desperate Housewives’ and ‘Swingtown’ in search of such malicious volume manipulation during the commercial breaks,” Mr. Thierer said.

For those who are bothered by excessively loud TV ads but can’t wait to see whether Mrs. Eshoo’s bill makes it out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, there’s a product out there called the TV Sound Regulator, as Ted Hearn noted earlier this month in Multichannel News.

“Has this ever happened to you? You’ve got the television volume exactly where you want it when the commercials come on and the sound jumps to an ear-shattering level,” says the commercial on www.TVSoundRegulator.com. “At last, you never again have to live with loud, nerve-wracking television commercials.”

The product, “developed by a top former Sony engineer,” goes for $49.95.

By Kara Rowland

About the Author
Kara Rowland

Kara Rowland

Kara Rowland, White House reporter for The Washington Times, is a D.C.-area native. She graduated from the University of Virginia, where she studied American government and spent nearly all her waking hours working as managing editor of the Cavalier Daily, UVa.’s student newspaper.

Her interest in political reporting was piqued by an internship at Roll Call the summer before her ...

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