June 9, 2010

Commerce Committee Approves Whitehouse Legislation to Reduce Volume of Excessively Loud TV Commercials

Washington, DC – The Senate Commerce Committee today voted to approve legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) that would require the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate the volume of television advertisements. The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act of 2009 (S. 2847), co-sponsored by Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), would require the volume of television advertisements to be no louder than the volume of the program during which the advertisements appear.

“Every American has likely experienced the frustration of abrasively loud television commercials jumping out at you,” said Whitehouse. “Today’s action by the Commerce Committee marks an important step toward eliminating at least one of life’s many daily stressors. This practice is designed to intentionally disturb our households to attract attention to the ad, and the American public has had enough.”

“It’s about time we turned down the volume on loud commercials that try to startle TV watchers into paying attention. This is a simple step that will keep ads at the same decibel level as the programs they are interrupting. TV viewers should be able to watch their favorite programs without fear of losing their hearing when the show goes to a commercial,” Schumer said.

“Excessively loud television advertisements may seem like a small thing-but they are a big source of irritation for many television viewers. This is really an issue about fairness – and making sure that advertisers can’t just blast advertisements at consumers at unbearable volume levels. I’m pleased that the Commerce Committee took a step today to protect TV viewers from unnecessarily loud and grating commercials,” said Senator Rockefeller, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

The FCC has received consumer complaints about commercials being louder than television shows since the 1960s. In the 25 quarterly reports on consumer complaints released by the FCC since 2002, 21 have listed as a top complaint the loudness of television commercials. Last year Consumers Union, the nonprofit organization that publishes Consumer Reports, stated in testimony before the House of Representatives, “the CALM Act provides an elegant and common sense solution to finally ending a forty-five year consumer complaint in the United States.”

The CALM Act was also cosponsored by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Claire McCaskill (D-MO).

Representative Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) introduced companion legislation in the House, which voted last December to pass the bill. Today, Eshoo said “I’m very pleased that the Senate Commerce Committee has passed the CALM Act and I look forward to its final passage. There was a three year effort in the House to make certain that video providers do what they should have done fifty years ago-allow consumers to control the sound levels of their televisions. Thanks to the leadership and hard work of Senators Whitehouse and Rockefeller, we’re one step closer to this goal.”

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