Loud Commercials Outlawed
They might not be able to fix the economy or the healthcare system or agree on an efficient tax policy but Congress has managed to reach accord on one of the most serious problems facing America: loud television commercials.
They might not be able to fix the economy or the healthcare system or agree on an efficient tax policy but the Senate has managed to reach accord on one of the most serious problems facing America: loud television commercials.
Legislation to turn down the volume on those loud TV commercials that send couch potatoes diving for their remote controls looks like it’ll soon become law.
The Senate unanimously passed a bill late Wednesday to require television stations and cable companies to keep commercials at the same volume as the programs they interrupt.
The House has passed similar legislation. Before it can become law, minor differences between the two versions have to be worked out when Congress returns to Washington after the Nov. 2 election.
Snark aside, while my initial instinct on these things is that they’re not only too trivial for Congressional action but represent an extension of the Nanny State, this strikes me as perfectly legitimate. The federal government has regulated broadcast since before the advent of commercial television. And, since commercials are paying for most television programming, customer complaints aren’t going to fix this.
But actually carrying out the policy isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Ever since television caught on in the 1950s, the Federal Communication Commission has been getting complaints about blaring commercials. But the FCC concluded in 1984 there was no fair way to write regulations controlling the “apparent loudness” of commercials. So it hasn’t been regulating them.
Correcting sound levels is more complicated than using the remote control. The television shows and ads come from a variety of sources, from local businesses to syndicators.
Managing the transition between programs and ads without spoiling the artistic intent of the producers poses technical challenges and may require TV broadcasters to purchase new equipment. To address the issue, an industry organization recently produced guidelines on how to process, measure and transmit audio in a uniform way.
While they’re at it, I hope they solve the related annoyance of different channels being broadcast at wildly different volumes. It was more problematic in the days of channel flipping than the age of TiVo. But it remains jarring to finish watching one program and then have a program from another channel blaring at you.