Eshoo’s CALM Act Is Passed, But Will TV Ad Volume Go Down?

by on December 7, 2010

in Entertainment

Brusimm TV NewsLoud TV commercials may now get quieter due in part to a new law.  But the question I pose is, will they?  Will advertisers figure something out to circumvent the process?  They already have restrictions in place that you probably weren’t aware of, and they comply with!  Yet still, our ears cringe with every ad on TV.

Do you remember six months ago, I told you about the CALM Act and how TV ads are too loud?  [TV Ads Too Loud]  Well, first the good news:  Representative Anna G. Eshoo‘s CALM Act was passed by Congress last week!  CALM Act stands for “Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act.”  Thank god!  It’s about time that something was afoot about loud TV ads.

This is the first good news where someone we’ve voted in has stepped up and given the TV viewer a voice.

The flip side to the good news is that the television industry has two years to comply.  It’s two years because first The act directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate volume levels.  The FCC has one year to comply.  Once the FCC complies, television providers then have one year themselves to comply.

The FCC has had tons of time to enforce their own restrictions on ad volume, but they have failed to do so.  I can’t blame them, but more on that later.  Now the law step has to step in.  Most networks have not commented though The Walt Disney Company publicly gave it a thumbs-up.


TV Ad Volume Isn’t Really Louder

What?  Am I nuts?  No, I’m not.  But the people that crank out the deafening adverts say they’re not technically louder but only seem louder from the results of the audio compression techniques used, called dynamic range compression, to create the soundtracks to the deafening sales pitches.  It’s like when we tinker with the BASS of our stereos without moving the volume.  At one setting, the walls reverberate, at the other end of the spectrum, quieter… all without changing the volume setting.

Plus there’s a little known fact the the regular Joe might not realize and that is that no TV ad can be louder than the loudest part of any TV broadcast.  But if you’ve ever noticed, every single show ever broadcast actually always has some moment or scene where there is a huge sound spike.  (I presume provided for the courtesy of the advertisers.)

Yet I still find myself turning my volume down some 15 to 20% on some networks.  Plus I’m finding that it “feels” like ad-time is getting longer.  I only say “feels like it” because I remember the days when scenes would fade to black and ads would then come on.  Now they just harshly dump us right into ads.  I presume, to accommodate a few seconds more of ad time for the advertisers per hour.

I can’t blame the networks either.  They raked in over $8 billion in fees in the upfronts for the 2010/2011 TV season alone.  And yes, that’s not a typo, I typed eight billion.  [Advertisers Pay Big For TV Time]

Devil’s Advocate on Ads and Ad Volume:

Now I have to ask you, the reader something …  If someone paid you all the money you need to pay all your bills and live the high-life, you would accommodate your provider as best you could.  Would you not?  If someone paid you $2 billion to set off a canon once a day for every day of the week, would you not comply?

I would.

But if every single neighbor complained about it, sooner or later the law will step in.  But wouldn’t you find a way to keep that $2 billion coming into your coffers?

I would!  (Just being honest here, even if I do hate TV ad volume, I’d love a chunk of $2 billion and I’m betting you would too.)

And yes, I run ads on my website… but they’re over there, on the side and sometimes in links in the articles, where you can choose to click on them.  And I label them so you know where they’re going.  I don’t surprise you, I don’t lie to you about what a link is.  And nor to they don’t pop up in your face and force you to interact with them.  Your participation in supporting my site and my work is voluntary.  (And seriously appreciated!!  See that Amazon site link in the upper left corner… yes, that one.  Feel free to start your Christmas / holiday shopping with that link!!!  LOL.  See, completely voluntary.  Hey!  Come back, I’m not done with this article yet!)

The Sad Part About Television Commercials

The really sad part about this entire process is that if it didn’t work, they wouldn’t have been doing it.  Right now in some 30-minute programs, you only get 18 minutes of show.  In the hour-long TV series, it’s 18 minutes of ad.  Hmm, that looked confusing.

  • 30-minute show:  18 minutes of entertainment
  • 60-minute show:  42 minutes of entertainment

We used to get 46 minutes of programming ten years ago.

Oh, did I forget to mention we get 10 minutes of in-program advertisements as well?  That’s called product placement.  Take note how often a huge, lit Apple symbol shows up in your show.  Or how the Dell logo passes by the screen in a shot.  The camera logistics and scene writing have to account for these moments because they’re paid advertisement slots and not incidental.  [Television Ad Time In An Hour]

The second sad part is if it weren’t for the advertisers, we would not have TV, TV programs and many other creative venues that we find ourselves enjoying.

My Consumer Opinion on Loud TV Ads

Regardless of the other side of the coin that I just pointed out, (as the consumer), I feel like advertisers and their minions, (the networks) don’t care about the TV audience.  We’ve been screaming too loud for centuries…  OK, maybe not that long, but it’s been forever and they don’t seem to care.  Instead they propagate technicalities about the volume, turn down their consumer complaint knob and move on with their day while counting their spare change.

And way back when the CALM Act was submitted in June, the entertainment industry started making claims that the bill would be a “very costly compliance, causing financial hardship.

Dudes, take a look around… the volume of your network sponsors ads are driving people to the mute button of their remotes.  The amount of advertising in the TV shows are driving people to stop watching and just buying DVD collected series.  Driving people online… or least they were until The CW network and Hulu is proving that ads don’t deter viewers. You’re losing the eyeballs from TV by driving our ears away.

In regards to Disney giving a thumbs up on this new “law,” Disney / ABC made a great statement:

Shouting usually doesn’t get your point across in discussions, in speakers at the drive-through, or in TV commercials. The key is raising the level of creativity, not the volume.”

Which is a great point.  The creative, entertaining ads do get our attention.  The loud ones do drive us away.


This battle will go on and on.  As some folks have noticed when they rented DVD’s, some studios and distributors are forcing a god-awful amount of ads on people, that they can’t skip or get past.  [Annoying DVD Trailers You Can’t Skip]  We’re talking upwards of fifteen minutes of trailers that can’t be gotten around on DVD’s like Whiteout, Invention of Lying, Edge of Darkness, Book of Eli, Invictus & The Hangover.  These were products from Blockbuster and Netflix.

Basically we’re told on our electronic equipment that WE OWN, that “THIS FUNCTION NOT ALLOWED” or “DISABLED.”  That’s when advertising crosses a line with me.

BTW:  It’s a very popular post on the site, the one mentioned in the previous paragraph.  There are lots of comments and good conversation going on there.

Will The Law Work on Loud Ads?

But as one of my site visitors said, and I quote the very intelligent opinion of Cornelius, “it will change nothing, unless they can somehow regulate perceived volume, rather than measurable volume.“  Smart man, I should have hired him!

And that’s a point I made earlier.  Maybe the volume technically is the same, but when I have to drop my volume meter on my own TV set by 15 to 20% and sometimes more for at least one to two networks consistently, then I have a perceived problem that the advertisers are not acknowledging.  Then again, I’m probably hard to hear over the ruckus that $8 billion makes.  That’s a lot of dollar bill corners flapping when being counted.

[NY Times , SF Gate ,]


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

michael August 23, 2011 at 1:56 pm

it’s sad to think that people living in small sheltered rooms or nursing
rooms are having this polyphony of loud commercial noises crammed
down their throats in their final years.
I know it’s as easy to turn a volume control knob down as it is to turn it up.
Do they really think we are stupid.
It’s clear there’s gonna be a reVOLT

lori fulton December 8, 2010 at 7:51 pm

I have the remote literally in my hand constantly so I can turn down the volume everytime a commercial comes on. I don’t care what type of commercial….every one of them are literally 5 volume clicks down on the remote. It is the most unenjoyable, horrible experience watching tv. And the kicker, I never buy anything from those loud tv commercial ads….and think about it….the sales must be down for them due to all of us muting or turning down the volume so low that we cannot hear the ads anyway! I am so close to terminating tv for good because of it! Something has to be done, once and for all!

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