Hate Loud Commercials? Well, They May Be Outlawed Soon

Good news for those of you who hate loud commercials — a bill currently bouncing around in Congress would force the FCC to “preclude commercials from being broadcast at louder volumes than the program material they accompany.”

The cleverly named Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, or “CALM”, would require the following:

(1) advertisements accompanying such video programming shall not be excessively noisy or strident;

(2) such advertisements shall not be presented at modulation levels substantially higher than the program material that such advertisements accompany; and

(3) the average maximum loudness of such advertisements shall not be substantially higher than the average maximum loudness of the program material that such advertisements accompany.

The Wall Street Journal says that the industry is already planning to deal with the commercial loudness issue on its own.

Broadcasters say they are addressing the problem already. “The major television broadcast networks, including ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, are each, individually, implementing policies that attempt to control loud commercials,” said David Donovan, president of the Association for Maximum Service Television, a broadcast industry trade group, speaking at a hearing Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Telecommunications Subcommittee.

A representative from NBC said that Congress can expect an industry-wide review of commercial volume in July. Broadcasters could begin implementing it by the fall.

Do you think they’ll actually do this? Should Congress pass the bill? Or do you not care about loud commercials?


Lawmakers Make Noise About Loud Commercials [WSJ]
Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (Introduced in House) [THOMAS]

Comments

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  1. kaceetheconsumer says:

    YES. I would love this. It was not fun when my daughter spent the first year and a half of her life only napping on ME and if I watched TV, I’d have it at a nice quiet level only for an ad to come on three times louder and wake her and startle me.

    Even now I hate it when I have to adjust the volume up and down between ad breaks.

    It will help the advertisers, actually: I’m less likely to mute them or skip them if they weren’t screaming at me. Plus in those baby-lap-nap days I watched a lot more TCM where the movies are uncensored, uncut, and don’t have ad breaks, so the volume stayed level. Advertisers missed out on a lot of chances to grab my new-mommy eyes because of their shouting.

    • David Guffy says:

      @kaceetheconsumer: you should have just hit MUTE.

      • kaceetheconsumer says:

        @David Guffy: Actually, going from low sound to no sound wakes the baby up too. Consistent sound works much better.

        And again, the advertisers want me to listen, so it’s in their interested to not scream at me and make me mute them.

    • starzshine says:

      @kaceetheconsumer: I had the same problem with my daughter, and I absolutly hate Billy Mays and anything he is selling. Loud commercials have been something that has driven me and several members of my family crazy for years! I’m glad they are trying to do something about it.

  2. RobinIrene says:
  3. italianscallion33 says:

    Thank goodness. Sometimes commercials scare the crap out of me because they are so much louder.

    • henwy says:

      @italianscallion33:

      Somtimes it’s not hte commercials are louder, it’s the damn movie (it’s almost always a movie) is quieter than it should be. Why the hell is that anyway? You think they would norm the gain on these things but there are plenty of times where I have to turn the volume way up while watching a movie and then whenever there’s a commercial I’m nearly defeaned.

      • cerbie says:

        @henwy: the movie isn’t too quiet. It just isn’t compressed much. Dynamics are a good thing. A very good thing. The problem is entirely that of the network management and commercial makers (getting an average weighted SPL of a commercial, and matching it to a movie, when both are playbacks of something already fully recorded, is not rocket science, nor should it take an act of congress, nor any other cliches that may apply in a literal sense to this issue).

  4. wcnghj says:

    Just getting to bed and SIRENS!!!

    BRINKS HOME SECURITY JUST A $99 SETUP FEE WOW.

    So much for getting to bed.

  5. jamesdenver says:

    i mute all commercials. it’s instinctive as I’ve een doing it for 15 years.

    Had a teacher who muted “channel 1″ in high school (commercials) — and i’ve been doing it ever since.

    when people come to my house they think it’s odd. I think it’s odd being yelled at by car dealers and mortgage hawkers for five minutes straight.

    i choose what i watch and hear – and nothing more.

    • ThinkerTDM says:

      @jamesdenver: I know! It’s like people freak out if that mute button is on.

      • Easton21 says:

        @ThinkerTDM: Yeah no kidding, when I press mute, closed captions come on by default, and some loud commercials show up in all-caps. I think the cc’ers have a sense of humor…
        I feel like it’s AOL 3.0 in ’95 again.

        • Starfury says:

          @Easton21:

          I don’t watch a lot of TV and most of what I do watch I’ve recorded. I just skip right over the commercials; partially because they’re annoying and I also hate the volume increase when they come on.

    • jeffjohnvol says:

      May the vocal chords of Billy Mays be infested with carpenter ants to be ever silenced.@jamesdenver:

      I’m the same way. And when I’m at a house that doesn’t, I freak out a little. Serves me right I suppose, but I want to yell mute! mute!

    • Shoelace says:

      @jamesdenver: I automatically mute, but get very pissed off if I’m in another room and can’t get to the remote before the MF’ers start yelling at me. I do make sure to not ever buy their product/service.

      BTW, has anyone noticed that the hearing aid commercials seem much LOWER than the featured show? It’s horrible but kind of funny…they want the viewers to strain to hear the ad so they’ll be more inclined to buy the hearing aids.

      • Sharwnthla says:

        @Shoelace: The not getting to the remote in time, is also my issue. I am normally up and around doing stuff or at the computer while watching TV. So I can’t always get to the mute button in time. I personally think that the volume of commercials should be kept to a normal level, and if the ad companies wont bow to public outrage over it then something need to be done to force the issue. I also hate it when movies and TV shows go from super soft dialog to super loud action/music/explosions that should be kept within limits as well.

    • nakedscience says:

      @jamesdenver: Whenever I mute, I get distracted, then I miss like, 2 minutes of the program. So I don’t mute. Because I am bad at paying attention.

    • zlionsfan says:

      @jamesdenver: I mute almost all of them as well … and now that I watch everything through the DVR, it doesn’t matter if I forget and “miss” a few seconds of whatever I was watching. I can just rewind, turn the volume on, and play.

  6. NotYou007 says:

    Ban away… That is all.

  7. Brazell says:

    Just to be fair to BIlly Mays, I don’t think that his infomercials advertise in a louder volume than the others, he just yells at the camera. It’s different.

    • mac-phisto says:

      @MichaelBrazell: true, but there are some stations that are notorious for having different volume levels for programming/commercials (i’m looking at you, tbs, tnt, fx, comedy central…).

      imo, the worst by far are those life insurance policies by – who is it? franklin life? & those damn mesothelioma commercials.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Don’t they have TVs with special volume control that caps the max volume at a certain level? I know the new DLP we are about to buy has this. I always hated it when you watch a movie with a sleeping kid and you have to increase / decrease the volume when background music plays then transitions to people chatting.

    • MrEvil says:

      @AidenDatsun: Magnavox had that feature many years ago. I don’t remember what they called it, but it adjusted the volume dynamically to a level fixed by the viewer.

  9. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Wasn’t there a TV years ago that claimed to prevent the ads from being way louder than the regular show?

    I don’t think it should have to come down to legislation but I like kaceetheconsumer I would also mute the TV or change the channel with the dumb auto ads tried to scream me out of the room. If I changed the channel I didn’t always go back to the show I was originally watching.

    • milqtost says:

      @Rectilinear Propagation: Lots of tvs offer this as a feature now although I think it was Zenith or Magnavox that originally advertised it. Doesn’t help when you run it through your home theater though!

      • formatc says:

        @milqtost: Most recent THX-certified AV receivers will include THX Loudness Plus which normalizes volume across multiple sources. I have it in my Onkyo receiver and I never notice commercials being much louder than the shows before or after them.

    • Cant_stop_the_rock says:

      @Rectilinear Propagation:
      I don’t know about TVs (you’re probably right), but many A/V receivers have a “night mode” that will even out the volume of things you’re watching. Movies have a tendency to have sound effects that are absurdly loud compared to the voices (which is fine in theaters, but sometimes I don’t want to be overwhelmed by explosions) – night mode will even them out. On my old receiver it only worked with digital audio inputs, but my new receiver has a microphone that I can place in the room, so presumably it’ll even out any audio input.

    • silver-bolt says:

      @Rectilinear Propagation: Hell, even the motorola boxes comcast uses for cable receivers have this option. “Normilization” or “Dynamic Range” or “Compression” or something like it, that will override the tv program at the hardware level to compress the range of low and high sounds. So whispers, normal talking, and explosions all sound at the same level instead of widely different.

    • XTC46 says:

      @Rectilinear Propagation: Yea, but you do lose a lot of dynamic in the audio since what it tried to do is even everything out. Whispers get louder, and poorly implemented systems ruin things like tone.

    • Nighthawke says:

      @Rectilinear Propagation: RCA and we got two of them still in operation. They are motel type models with solid tops compared to perforated home types. Good screens, lousy sound.

  10. Laura Northrup says:

    I thought this was already illegal.

    • WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

      @Laura Northrup: There is a maximum peek volume that a TV broadcast can have, as set by the FCC.

      The issue is that TV shows spend a lot of time far away from peak, using the peak for dramatic music stabs, explosions, etc.

      Commercials, on the other hand, spend most of their time at or near the peak volume allowed.

    • AstroPig7 says:

      @Laura Northrup: As did I. My parents mentioned it several times when I was growing up, so I wonder where they got the idea from.

      • WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

        @AstroPig7: Well, like I said.. the MAXIMUM loudness of a commercial is not allowed to be any higher than the maximum loudness of a TV show. However, commercials spend much more time near max volume, so they are louder.

        The sections of the law that dictate AVERAGE loudness could be the part that makes the difference in advertising volumes.

  11. MostlyHarmless says:

    “ZOMG commie guvmint in my teevees!” in 3…2…1…

    • Leksi Wit says:

      @MostlyHarmless: Are you serious? Ever hear of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) who is already censoring TV programming?

    • formatc says:

      @MostlyHarmless: I’ll bite. I voted “Trust…” for that reason. I think it’s perfectly reasonable for the commercials to be as loud or quiet as they want. A law like that will dilute the value of the commercials which will directly impact the investments made by the networks on TV shows. We’ll be stuck watching American Idol reruns and unoriginal cookie-cutter series because none of them have the funds to take a gamble with a new concept.

      • nakedscience says:

        @formatc: LOL, what. What a reach.

        • formatc says:

          @nakedscience: Yeah I know.
          @Ubik2501: If that were the case, they wouldn’t use high volume commercials. I’m sure these things go through testing groups to see what volume makes test subjects more or less likely to buy their product.
          @mac-phisto: They come and go, and that’s my point. With less funding, they’ll come less often.
          @RandomZero: There are plenty choices under the current system that don’t fall under any of those category.

      • Ubik2501 says:

        @formatc: I have a strong hunch that the value added by the higher decibel level of the commercials is nowhere near the value lost by people being so irritated by them that they mute the TV, switch the station or resolve to boycott the advertisers engaged in this practice.

      • mac-phisto says:

        @formatc: so where is all this novel programming now?

      • RandomZero says:

        @formatc: As opposed to the current system, where your choices are 75 clones of CSI, four Law & Order spinoffs, a half-dozen procedurals with a Twist ™, and about a billion knockoffs of whatever reality TV show topped last season’s ratings?

  12. Cylon12 says:

    Loud commercials really do not bother me. As soon as ANY commercial break comes on, I either change channels to another program or mute the channel until the program comes back and totally ignore the commercials.

  13. MTBVibe says:

    Finally, a solution for the plight of innocent remote controls everywhere, hammered into premature death-of-function by way of being furiously hammered to correct the advertorial assault upon our ears!

  14. qwijybo says:

    What about perceived loudness vs actual loudness. I work in a tv station in Canada and we get calls about this from time to time. I can watch the commercials that people complain about and measure the audio, the actual measured level will be normal with respect to program but sound louder because of the content of the commercial (music or use of compression). Plus if you are watching a show that is quiet with soft music (dramas, soaps) then when the commercials come on they will also sound louder because your ears have adjusted to the quietness of the program. You can tell the broadcasters to watch the levels but there also has to be some control over the content providers and advertisers to make sure they also comply.

    • redskull says:

      @qwijybo: That’s kind of what I’ve been telling people for years– the commercial can’t be louder than whatever level your TVs volume is set at.

      • AvisCinna says:

        @redskull: Except that you’re wrong. The commercials can and most are louder than the volume of the show/movie you are watching. The volume control on a (normal) TV doesn’t limit the decibel (dB) level, it reduces or amplifies it.

        So if your TV is set to +2dB and the show you are watching is at an average of 55dB you are getting 57dB out of your TV. Now if a commercial comes on with an average of 57dB, you are now hearing 59dB and it will sound louder because it is.

      • nakedscience says:

        @redskull: Yes it can.

      • aguacarbonica says:

        @redskull:

        I hope you haven’t been telling people that for years because it’s not right. As others have said, television volume is relative. The volume numbers are just visual aids; they don’t actually correspond to an objective loudness level.

      • P_Smith says:

        @redskull: Obviously you’ve never used Youtube and have all your MP3s normalized by somebody before you listen to them…probably because your auditory acuity is gone.

    • Sian says:

      @qwijybo: from my own experimentation with audio, the commercials are not louder. (thus the broadcasters can deny that they ramp up the volume for commercials) What’s actually happening is that the programming itself is damped down so you have to turn the volume up to hear it.. then when the commercials come on at ‘normal’ volume, you’re blasted out of your seat. =(

    • cerbie says:

      @qwijybo: “Plus if you are watching a show that is quiet with soft music (dramas, soaps) then when the commercials come on they will also sound louder because your ears have adjusted to the quietness of the program.”

      So make the commercials quieter. We have technology that can handle managing [b]average weighted loudness[/b], which [b]is what matters[/b]. Peak level is BS. I use one such technology daily, and it’s [b]free[/b] (ReplayGain). There’s no way that it would be technically difficult to do this to broadcast TV (bureaucratic difficulty is another thing entirely). If the program’s average is -20dBFS, and the commercials average is -5dBFS, but both peak to 0dBFS, the commercial is still many times louder.

    • Anonymous says:

      @qwijybo: If that is the case, then why do we consistently hear the sound level of our favourite programs rise moments before the commercials come on? The biggest culprit is Comedy when they show Daily Show or Colbert. That show plays their theme song as the go to commercial, and every time, a fraction of a second before the screen goes black, that theme song gets twice as loud. You can tell me that the sky is purple, but my eyes tell me otherwise, why should I trust my own ears any less?

  15. pasquinade says:

    It isn’t just the major networks. When I was a Comcast subscriber, they would regularly play local ads at roughly twice, sometimes three times, the volume of the cable program I was watching. Often it was so loud, the sound was distorted. I sure hope they got that annoyance worked out.

    • silver-bolt says:

      @pasquinade: Quality of the source material and equipment. And editing controls. Those local commercials are made and edited by local folks and companies who have no idea about this. Unlike major companies who have better equipment and stuff.

    • Anonymous says:

      @pasquinade:
      You have to remember too that Comcast is literally grabbing control of the line and force feeding the commercials in network programming. Whatever audio processors the channel may be using to be relatively consistent is sort of scrapped when someone is hijacking the signal. There is technology and devices that fix this problem, but it becomes sort of glaringly obvious once you go outside that realm and have the REAL video+audio playing back to back without post-processing.

      So basically, Comcast ruins your life again. The End.

  16. jdmba says:

    Why can’t we just launch a huge education campaign instead. We will calmly explain to everyone that they should never (i) buy anything based on an email solicitation they get, (ii) buy anything which is ‘not available in stores’, or (iii) believe that being the 278,383,494th level of Amway will make them any money whatsoever.

    Maybe once everyone knows to stop patronizing these people, they will all go away?

    • Shadowman615 says:

      @jdmba: It seems every company’s commercials are annoyingly louder than the actual programming. Even the big-budget super-bowl ad type content. Not just crazy the crazy stuff.

  17. jp7570 says:

    But what I want to know is this – who in DC is the person tasked with coming up with the cute acronyms for proposed legislation? CALM? Remember the new credit card regulations (CARD)?

    Instead of the CALM act, how about QUIET (Quit Upsetting Interior Environments with Trash)?

  18. MikeB says:

    I can’t find the article, but I think that the Gov’t has agreed to back off and let the industry “fix” this but if nothing happens it will be back on the table.

  19. Ber'Zophus says:

    YES damnit YES! On some programs I pretty well have to be ready for the fade-to-commercial black with the remote and either hit the mute button quick or mash the “volume down” button.

    So I get to scream “damnit” more because I’m in Canada. This loudness-effect seems to be the most pronounced when watching American stations. American programs always just seem to be quieter, and the moment it switches over to ads (which sometimes switch over to Canada depending on the network, due to some sort of CRTC regulation), the ads are BLARING.

    Maybe have something to do with the commercial switching thing or…something, whatever; I don’t care, it’s still annoying! Get on this CRTC!

    • qwijybo says:

      @Ber’Zophus: That issue with Canadian ads on US channels is a rights issue, some US stations don’t have the rights to air certain shows in Canada because a Canadian network has paid for those rights. So when a show airs on a US network the cable and satellite providers are required to switch the feed to a Canadian station airing the same show to protect those rights. A good example is the Superbowl, in Canada we don’t get the Superbowl ads.

  20. justbychance says:

    They’d have a better shot at making Auto Volume adjusting standard on all televisions. It’s a great feature on most newer sets which make the changes in volume almost impossible to detect.

  21. Chols says:

    Constantly adjusting the volume is a pain. I hope this all works out.

    Btw, don’t hate Billy. Usually those commercials aren’t to loud on average. It’s all the local crap that is so loud it distorts lol.

  22. Anonymous says:

    when recorded, the VCR and some DVR’s will automatically eliminate the volume issue on playback – they have a recording input sensor that moderates the input. And not too many years ago TV’s were sold that had an automatic sound moderator that did the same thing. Interestingly enough, they were pulled from the market after being introduced.

  23. Rachacha says:

    “The major television broadcast networks, including ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, are each, individually, implementing policies that attempt to control loud commercials”

    Dear Television networks. There is a very simple audio device called an Audio Compressor which automatically evens out the volume levels of what you are broarcasting so that everything is substantially the same volume.

    My local FOX station is the worst. They have the audio for the programs turned way down so that you have to turn the volume on the TV to twice the level of all of the other stations, but their commercials are at the same level as the commercials on NBC. The result is room shaking!

    • Bob_Mackey says:

      @Rachacha: Great, so the dynamic range can be completely ruined, like it is on FM radio. I love listening to a muted, staccato guitar intro that “explodes” into the full band playing at the same exact volume.

      • Rachacha says:

        @Bob_Mackey: While I agree that it would be nice to hear the full dynamic range, most television programs that people watch is spoken word. You are not losing too much drama when Oprah or the evening news is run through a compressor. Yes, there are more elegant and pure methods but for most broadcast television is this really necessary?

        • cerbie says:

          @Rachacha: yes. I’ve gone and gotten current shows on the ‘net exactly because of this. Talk shows and news are not all that’s on the networks.

          That said, they haven’t caught up yet since the DTV transition, so currently the cable channels have some actual range. I’m sure they’ll “fix” it soon enough.

      • bobcatred says:

        @Bob_Mackey: There’s music on TV? They certainly don’t play it on the music stations…

  24. zjmuse says:

    Finally, FX has been doing this for years. Its like they play their material at 75% of the volume of the other channels, then play their commercials at 150%.

    • cerbie says:

      @RavingRabbid: I agree. I just happened upon it one night, and absolutely did not expect to like it, once I saw what it does. But yeah, it’s actually pretty cool. it also seems he can talk normally, most of the time ;).

  25. MedicallyNeedy says:

    Outlaw the permanent pause bar Comcast puts up so you can’t read fine print!
    Especially for Comcast triple play commercials!

  26. gamabunta says:

    Those Esurance commercials are loud as hell. I stopped watching certain shows because of them.

  27. Mykie Gunderson says:

    Didn’t a previous DVR make use of loud ad detection to activate a commercial skip feature?

  28. Raving Rabbid says:

    Billy Mays is a nice guy. (Watch “Pitchmen” (Discovery Channel) and you’ll see why.)

    We found the show and love it.

  29. Guvmint_Cheese says:

    What commercials?

    /DVR user

  30. tinmanx says:

    How about making programming very low volume so you have to crank it up and then playing the commercials at normal volume? I know a show that does this, think it’s on a public access channel or something.

  31. strathmeyer says:

    But then how will we know it’s time to channel surf?

  32. Zombini says:

    I guess Congress decided to GET ON THE BALL!

  33. XTC46 says:

    I hope they do this for shows online also. As is, when commercials come on, I mute them and browse a website for a bit while it plays, the reason is, its easier for me to mute then unmute then it is to lower the volume to something tolerable then readjust for the show, so I skip their commercials all together.

  34. cartagenero says:

    I hate it when the commercials just bust out way louder than the program… makes you jump for the control every time.

  35. JGKojak says:

    Many higher end TVs have built-in compressors you can turn on to control the loudness of commercials.

    However, I think its fair to pass a law- its one of those things that forces everyone to the lowest common denominator– and if no one were loud, I think everyone wins.

  36. dosdelon says:

    Hating loud commercials has made me love the mute button…

  37. calquist says:

    HEAD ON! APPLY DIRECTLY TO THE FOREHEAD! HEAD ON!

  38. almightytora says:

    HI! I’M BILLY MAYS AND YOU GUYS BETTER NOT MAKE ME TALK IN A SOFTER VOICE, OR I WILL GO KABOOM!

  39. Derek Bentley says:

    The worst is watching these shows late at night and the show’s at a somewhat quiet volume and then some shitty commercial comes on at 3x that loudness which makes you scramble all the way over there to turn the dial down. It’s worse when you have your stereo system hooked into your TV because sometimes there’s a lot of bass and that carries at 3am.

    I say outlaw them. They should never have been allowed to do it in the first place.

  40. savdavid says:

    PLEASE pass this law!! OMG, TNT is the worst offender. The only good thing about hearing SHAM WOW being screamed at you is it will wake you up so you can go to bed if you fall asleep on the couch.

  41. vastrightwing says:

    Having the government ban, control, outlaw, or whatever you want to call it is mis-guided at best and evil at worst.

    Am I crazy to believe that every time people try to regulate anything, the unintended consequences are magnitudes worse than the original problem? If your life is bothered by loud commercials, don’t ask for regulation from the government, just turn the noise off. Save your money and your sanity at the same time. Disconnect the cable!

    You are smart enough to deal with minor annoyances without getting regulators involved. Every time a new regulation is added, there are costs and labor associated with them. Are our taxes not high enough for you yet? Do you like being told what you can and can not do? Because this is what happens when you ask for more regulations, you ultimately cause your tax bill and my tax bill to climb because the regulations never go away and the added costs actually make our taxes go higher. You’ve added a new person who consumes our taxes and relies on bigger government.

    Please think before asking for more regulations, I’m no fan of the entertainment industry and I am no fan of more regulation. I vote that you simply turn the TV off and spend time socializing. Problem solved without regulation!

    • ZeeroxFalls says:

      @vastrightwing:

      “Am I crazy to believe that every time people try to regulate anything, the unintended consequences are magnitudes worse than the original problem?”

      Yes you are. Either that or amazingly ignorant. Many aspects of our lives are regulated and most – not all granted, but most – of the time that the effect is without a doubt beneficial.

      Food, water, medicine, work environment and air travel regulations are just a few broad examples where the quality of life is unquestionably improved by an outside set of standards and enforced regulation.

      • balls187 says:

        @ZeeroxFalls: No my friend, you are the ignorant one here.

        Yes, food, water, medicine, work, and air travel have regulations, but are you better for them?

        Japan and other countries will not improve beef from the US because of our lax food safety regulations.
        Corn and grain are left in silos to rot, while people are starving, in order to control prices.

        The water you drink contains fluoride, a poison.

        There are work regulations, but there are many stories of companies like Walmart that consistently abuse their workers. Additionally there are salaried employees who are often forced to work 70-100 hours a week, with no extra compensation.

        @vastrightwing is right. Poorly thought out, unenforceable regulation is a bad idea. If you don’t like loud commercials, turn the fucking volume down and quit being a pussy.

    • JuliB says:

      @vastrightwing:

      Normally, I would agree, but I believe this falls under the Interstate Commerce Clause, thus justifiable.

  42. savdavid says:

    ohhh,,, TBS, too. Not only do they play their ads to split your eardrums but they play their ads over and over and over.

  43. Dan Allard says:

    MythTV FTW. No commercials at all unless the flagging misses them (rarely). Only problem now is that I have centre channel sound issues I can’t figure out, so voices are always quieter than music.. Oh, and that I can’t handle a digital box without setting up an IR blaster to do the work of the remote control.

    Why do I not have the option to buy* a digital cable CARD from my provider and use software I actually like…

    *yes, buy. I don’t want to rent electronics – I like taking them apart and when you rent they don’t appreciate that..

  44. SpenceMan01 says:

    Gotta agree with Bob. That’s especially true now, with shows being broadcast in digital 5.1 sound. A blanket compression policy would ruin many shows.

  45. Thorny says:

    Are they going to do this for the web too? I get loud commercials a lot when I watch streaming video from the networks…

  46. atypicalxian says:

    I’m totally going as Billy Mays for Halloween this year.

  47. PsiCop says:

    I for one will NEVER … and I do mean, NEVER … buy anything sold by anyone who YELLS AT ME. That includes Billy Mays, who — for some reason I never have figured out — appears compelled to YELL AT ME all the time.

    Note to Mr Mays: I may be hard-of-hearing, but if I’ve got my TV volume adjusted properly, I can hear it just fine. I don’t need you to YELL AT ME all the time. If you think you need to YELL AT ME, then you’ve lost a sale even before your pitch is complete.

    Aside from Mr Mays and his compulsion to YELL AT ME all the time, commenter qwijybo (3:49 pm) makes a good point: The content of many commercials (which often include jingles, background music, sound effects, etc.) is such that they appear to be overpoweringly loud, compared to regular television content. This is, of course, by design, but it means that the engineers broadcasting the material may not be able to do much about it directly.

    Finally, I’d like to note that, commercials aside, within programs I’ve noticed a trend in which the music is LOUD, while the dialog is quiet. I may be more sensitive to this than most, being hard-of-hearing, but I’ve remarked on this to others … i.e. folks who can hear more normally … and they agree on it. TV needs to be the reverse; it’s the music that needs to be quiet and the dialog turned up. That way when someone mumbles something in Jack McCoy’s office on L&O that turns out to be the fulcrum of the episode’s plot-twist, people like me won’t miss it.

    (Yes, that’s why I gave up watching that show a few years ago. I was missing too much important dialog, enough that I couldn’t follow the story.)

  48. razremytuxbuddy says:

    We have a local car dealer with frequent radio ads that yell, “IF YOU DON’T COME SEE ME TODAY, I CAN’T SAVE YOU ANY MONEY,” and then repeat the yell again. I want so badly to go to this car dealer’s showroom, or walk up to him at a party or on the golf course, and yell this in his ears every few minutes, just like his commercial yells it into my home and my car several times a day without my invitation or consent.

    So basically, I’m all for a reasonable amount of regulation to control the decibels of TV and radio commercials.

  49. balls187 says:

    What a stupid stupid stupid law.

  50. vildechaia says:

    Hear! Hear! /sarcasm off

  51. superberg says:

    I don’t think there NEEDS to be a law, but I’m not against it.

    Nothing is more annoying that trying to fall asleep to some Simpsons reruns (my TV is on a timer) than a loud commercial.

    I leave my TV volume set at 7 out of 36, because I live in a studio with thin walls, and I find commercials jarringly louder than the actual programs I am watching.

  52. nybiker says:

    Of course, as one (or more) have mentioned: just record the shows and then FF past the commercials. That’s what I have been doing for the past few years.

  53. renniks_eoj says:

    I don’t understand why people are so eager to use the guns of the government to fix so called “problems” they don’t like instead of thinking of a solution that doesn’t require violence. For god sake why on earth would you want to tax people in order to make commercials softer. Here’s a novel idea if you don’t like the way a product is being advertised how about NOT buying the product in question. If enough people stop buying said product, viola! product will no longer be offered or the company selling the product will change their marketing practices.

    Seriously do people have no understanding on how a market is supposed to run? Whats next, ban billboards with letter that are too big. What about radio ads that repeat a phone number too many times. How much micro-managing of our lives do you want the government do before we’re all forced to live in gray colored padded rooms so our senses aren’t over stimulated and we cannot hurt ourselves?

  54. jake.valentine says:

    Another reason to DVR your shows! You can just skip the commercials.

    As much as the volume changes annoy me, I am more troubled by a government that thinks they are a parent figure and involve themselves so deeply in our everyday lives. We are slowly slipping from a free society to something far more Left which I am fairly certain our forefathers would not have approved of, much less envisioned for this country.

  55. WEGGLES90 says:

    I rarely watch tv, but if I do it’s at night and I’m in bed. I wanna chillax and watch re-runs I don’t want to have to babysit the remote… turning the show up… turning commercials down. Loud commercials make me infinitely less likely to buy it.

  56. Con Sumer Zealot says:

    I LOVE this!!!!!!

    The WORST ones are the Monster Truck Rally ads and the Car Dealer ads.

    What kind of NIMROD marketer things SCREAMING AT ME is going to get my business anyway?

    I have to admit in the past with particularly annoying ads, I have recorded them, gotten on the phone and called the business and the marketing team at the radio station and played them over and over and over until they get the hint. Hey if it’s okay to subject me to it…and they like their ads, what’s the problem? :)

  57. Con Sumer Zealot says:

    Oh and just once I would love to see someone as onboxious as Billy Mays come on with him tied down and start YELL-casting / demonstrating a sledgehammer on his face until the job is done…

    BUT THAT’S NOT ALL…call now and we’ll use these new Sharp Shears on him too!

  58. Anonymous says:

    The marketers need to realize that excessive volume change means that I’m more likely to simply MUTE (and then ignore) the commercial instead of leaving it on. All subsequent commercials are also summarily muted, ’cause I’m already enjoying my nice non-yelling room, and waiting for the show to come back on.

    For that matter, why don’t TVs have some sort of automatic gain control, so the overall sound can’t go over (or under) a certain decibel level. Normalization, I guess, is what I’m talking about here. Seems like it could be doable for relatively cheap parts.

  59. usa_gatekeeper says:

    It’s even worse when you’re watching a show like CSI: Miami where they LITERALLY WHISPER to each other (you have to watch closely to even see their lips move). Then the commercial creeps up on you and starts before you can grab the #*&^$% remote to mute the noise.

  60. nbs2 says:

    Clearly Congress has nothing better to do…

  61. SJ Stanaitis says:

    I personally find it a little horrifying that 80% of respondents to this poll are saying to outlaw them. I think the government should threaten legislation – which they are – and the industry should be given a chance to resolve it. This ‘outlaw everything and let Obama sort them out’ is not the right way to do things in a free country. The only thing this sort of legislation accomplishes is the establishment of a government foothold in another place it simply was never meant to belong.

  62. NickIQ says:

    I already wrote my congressman. This shit needs to stop.

  63. MissPiss says:

    Hah! And just the other day my boyfriend was talking about some fantastic invention he thought of to mute out the commercials!

  64. Baccus83 says:

    Well, I can tell you at least some of the problem is due to incompetent audio mastering. If you don’t have a good audio house taking care of your commercial, they might not normalize the audio, or they might not even make sure it’s AT the right decibel level. So when it goes to broadcast, the audio might be “hot” and thus significantly louder than the program it’s tagged to.

  65. Mr Fife says:

    A year ago, I got so fed up with these darn commercials that I stopped watching TV and cancelled my satellite service. I’m sick of strangers yelling at me to buy their crap.

  66. xenth says:

    I’m glad our government has such a handle on the economy they have time to spare for such issues

  67. __Ken__ says:

    Too bad a TV’s volume it’s directly related to decibels. Then anyone could just set the TV to 50dB’s and that’s it.

    No Commercials getting louder
    No action scenes getting too loud
    No Stars *boom* when watching shows on Netflix

    Ah….

    As I get older I’m wondering if Hollywood is just trying to give me a hearing test when I watch something. Some movies go to a loud scene to someone whispering. One’s too loud and the other I just can’t hear.

  68. Kenneth Simon says:

    I’m all for this! I’ve always hated it when commercials come blaring out way above the show’s volume level. At the gym, I sometimes watch TV with headphones on, and at times, a commercial will come on that is almost painfully loud!

    As for the broadcasters’ statement that they plan to self regulate: I have no reason to believe them. Even if the NBCs and FOXes of the world did take action, that leaves the dozens of other channels.

  69. JuliB says:

    @ vastrightwing -

    Normally, I would agree, but I believe this falls under the Interstate Commerce Clause, thus justifiable.

  70. subsider34 says:

    What if the program accompanying the commercials is Pitchmen staring Billy Mays?

  71. HogwartsAlum says:

    Yeah!

    I was just wishing for this not too long ago.

  72. geeniusatwrok says:

    Or hey, you could just stop watching television.

  73. MooseOfReason says:

    Wow, this article shows both sides of the argument.

    I’m impressed. Thanks, Meg.

  74. RB_Bhoy says:

    i thought i read something a few years ago that this was supposed to take place in 2008 (obviously it didn’t).

    maybe the bill was just introduced and never passed, or the FCC dropped it in favor of the DTV. now that DTV kicked in, they’re focusing on this again.

  75. Leksi Wit says:

    Can they do this for radio commercials as well? It’s distracting to hear booming voices when you’re trying to drive!

  76. baristabrawl says:

    Why do we need a law for this? Really? Where do we live?

    • cerbie says:

      @tvh2k: No. Sound is perceived logarithmically (you’re concerned with x^y, not x*y or x+y). For those loud commercials and quality dynamic programming, you could be dealing with a 10,000% volume difference (~20dB?), maybe more. 20% you would not casually notice.

  77. tvh2k says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but if they measure average loudness couldn’t a 30-second commercial be 20% louder for 25 seconds and then silent for 5 seconds at the end?

  78. humphrmi says:

    Yay! The government is now controlling minor annoyances!

  79. geoffhazel says:

    I have just three words for loud commercials:

    TIVO
    DVR
    TIVO

    I do not trust the stations to fix this on their own, they’ve had years to do it and once congress starts making noise “oh hey we were just thinking of that” – yeah right.

  80. Jack Doyle says:

    The radio industry has had a solution to this problem for years… it is called a Compellor.

  81. Anonymous says:

    Since about 1974 or so, when my parents bought their first remote tele, I have avoided commercials like the plague. Same with remote radio. I change channels on the tube at the hint of a BLAH-BLAH-BLAH. I simply turn the radio off.
    So I cannot remember the last time I have seen or heard one. I still voted to outlaw the damn things though. Just because I hate them so much.

  82. DanielleTexodus says:

    Come on… Where the Free Market heroes when you need them? Why haven’t I read, “If you think the commercial is too loud don’t buy the product, companies have a right to have their commercials play loudly and if you don’t like it complain with your money,” any where in this post?

    But truth be told. Te advertisers have no control over this. When you buy ad time, unless it’s a highly rated show, you buy time slots not show slots.

  83. ninjatoddler says:

    I selected “OUTLAW” but as consumers, we have the power for change through our wallets. Love those Subaru commercials.

  84. randomangela47 says:

    A few years ago, I noticed a really nice pattern while watching the Oxygen channel (yeah, I know, but Talk Sex with Sue is amusing if you don’t watch too often!). They did the opposite — commercial break comes on and all of a sudden I can barely hear them! It was awesome! Don’t know if they still do that, but it did keep me from muting or changing the channel!

  85. tankertodd says:

    Who still watches commercials? :-)

    As much as I love this bill, I really think legislation should be a last resort. If the broadcasters adopt guidelines that solve this problem, that is a win for us. Creating laws means creating a need for more enforcement capacity, which costs money. Adding laws creates more legal complexity, which makes lawyers more necessary. In the long term, more laws on the books in general is anti-consumer, pro-bureaucrat and pro-lawyer. Let’s treat them as a last resort.

  86. mangopants says:

    Do we really have to have the government pass regulation on how loud commercials are? Don’t they have more important things to do?

  87. Bs Baldwin says:

    Why has it taken this long to get this taken care of?

  88. MinorAnnoyance says:

    It’s not just OTA stations and networks… Comcast itself sells the commercial time on it’s digital channels and their commercials are seemingly twice as loud as the programming, including the ones for Comcast.

    I’ve nevr understood this supposedly radical concept that you can sell more sleazy crap by annoying the hell out of three quarters of your potential customer base.

  89. synergy says:

    Yes yes yes THIS! I HATE that the tv jumps a thousand decibles as soon as the commercials come on. Then I scale the volume way back, walk away, and can’t hear when the show comes back on. Ugh.

    And I swear I didn’t hallucinate when there used to be a t.v. some time back that came with the preference to keep the sound always at a set decibel level. Then mysteriously it disappeared before I had a chance to buy one (because I was quite broke at the time). Please someone tell me I didn’t hallucinate those!

    I’ve always been of the conspiracy theory that the commercials people decided those were a bad idea because then their commercials wouldn’t be able to blare out at you and offend your sense of hearing into buying yet another piece of crap you don’t need!

    /rant

  90. Anonymous says:

    I work in broadcast television engineering. It is not the TV station’s fault. I repeat … We Do Not Bump The Volume of Our Spots. What happens is that the advertisers send us the spots we air in most cases. They violate the standards for volume levels all the time. If this regulation passes, TV stations will need to install expensive new equipment to modulate the levels on the outgoing audio signal more than it already is. We are already 100% completely broke. The two week unpaid furlough I am currently enjoying is a good indication of where the broadcast industry is right now. And when the FCC tacks on a new exciting piece of regulation, they also tack on an exciting new fine if its violated.

    We stayed on our analog transmitter for an extra three months so granny-down-the-mountain wouldn’t have to get a converter box. On our UHF band signal, that three months cost us an additional $80,000 for the electric bill alone. That was our entire capital budget for the year that went up that antenna.

    Americans have an attitude that TV is a right handed down by God Himself that no man must interfere with. It isn’t. It’s a business … a very expensive business. People piss and moan about everything we try to do to creatively stay in business. You think you should be able to skip over all the advertising because it is annoying. I know it’s annoying but sitting and looking at those inane 30 seconds of ad drivel is your payment for sitting through the next 12 minutes of inane programming drivel.

    Also, MOST of the regulations broadcasters are required to comply with cable companies can freely ignore. If your local broadcast TV station airs a package on their evening news, and hasn’t noticed some jackass in the background waving his middle finger in the air behind the reporter, that station can be fined up to $10,000. On cable, the reporter could turn around, drop trou, and moon the entire audience and NOTHING WOULD HAPPEN.

    Broadcast TV has another 8 years of life in it, tops. Newspapers and radio stations have less time. So, live it up folks. You’ll have no local media in about 10 years. No papers, no radio, and no TV. You will essentially have no knowledge of what goes on in your community and no historical record of what has happened until someone figures out a new way of doing all this.

    • Anonymous says:

      Lorenzo, dude! Chill. It’s not personal. It’s not all drivel, BTW. And, the NEW medium is the open medium – internet let’s us all be local, if we’re wise enough to filter out the crap. And the broadcasters have, indeed fed us a lot of it over the years. Pretending it’s unbiased, but ignoring complex issues (for the most part). So, there’ll be no tears shed here when it all fades away. Sorry for your loss, tho. Hope you had a good ride.

    • nybiker says:

      @LorenzoDJ: I wish it was only 30 seconds to get 12 minutes of content. It’s actually 3:30 to 5:00 of commercials (and I include the promos too) and you get anywhere from 4 minutes to 9 minutes, sometimes 10, of content. I really miss the wonderful days of regulated commercial time so that you’d actually have about 23 minutes of content in a 30-minute show (I have my M*A*S*H tapes & the episodes from before 1978 are a real treat time-wise).

      Of course, it’s now 6/28/09 as I write this and Billy Mays died this morning, so if we didn’t have infommercials, he might not have become so famous.

  91. MrEvil says:

    Indeed, I say ban this garbage.

    Unfortunately I wouldn’t expect this law if it were to pass be applied to cable operators.

  92. grepme says:

    the printing on the MUTE button on the remote is worn down to this. Making it louder makes me hit MUTE and NOT want to buy the product. Hey Advertisers, do you hear this? Loud advertising turns AWAY customers, it does not bring them in.

  93. Carolyn Gabriel says:

    I work at a small, low-power television station. And this is going to be a pain in the butt.

    We receive our programming through a variety of sources, from local people dropping off a dvd to recording off satellites to downloading the shows off the internet. Some shows have terrible audio levels, and we have to play them low in order for them to be understandable. So naturally, when the local commercials air, they air at their own normal levels which are higher (and clearer) than the levels of the program they’re accompanying.

    So either we’re going to have to play some programming at high enough levels – causing distortion and all around sounding crappy – or lower the normal audio on the commercials to match each and every program they air in. This will be a nightmare. >.<

  94. vdragonmpc says:

    Wow all of the local TV workers have it rough. How is it we can click ‘normalize’ on our inexpensive consumer grade home systems but they cant?

    Are we to believe that the stations have no audio processing? That is rough. Since the digital transition how do you get ads sent in? Do you preview them? If so why not normalize the audio when you verify the ad?

    There has to be a workable way. Heck interns can use the ol’ windows and haupage recording software.

    V

  95. xip says:

    Sometimes the commercials are louder and other times they are just perceived as louder.

    I think they amp up local commercials sometimes. They always seem louder.

    Sometimes, though, commercials are only perceived as louder when a movie has lots of dynamic range and you go from a quiet part of the movie to a “normal” volume commercial. When I say “dynamic range,” btw, I mean the difference in experienced volume between a scene where two people are talking in a quiet room and a shootout. If your shootout is the same volume as your talking scenes, the movie doesn’t have much dynamic range. If the shootout makes you reach for your remote, it probably does. ;) And chances are, the commercial is going to its volume up around the level of the movie shootout.

    Regardless, you would think that they could normalize these things in this day and age.

  96. ModernDemagogue says:

    I work in broadcast advertising.

    Commercials are not any louder, or broadcast at higher power, than the shows surrounding them, this legislation would be completely irrelevant.

    Commercials simply SOUND louder since they are wall to wall, often have music, and are tightly compressed into a the peak power limits of the channel, usually around -8db. To compare, a TV show is mixed so that an explosion might be the loudest moment, at -8db, but most dialogue is much softer, so you experience the program as not as loud.

    Unfortunately, due to the way human perception works, you need to have some form of subjective assessment of the ad rather than a strict numerical interpretation in order to regulate it appropriately.

    The same thing happens to pop music, its highly compressed.

  97. vladthepaler says:

    It is sad and ridiculous and pathetic that we need to go so far as to pass a federal law to get rid of this nuisance. But that’s exactly what needs to be done. I’m glad it’s happening.

  98. Anonymous says:

    This won’t solve it, folks! Average ad levels don’t exceed average program levels; but, ads pump db into a smaller range – in the “normal” voice frequencies and reduce energy in others, making overall volume average the same. They’re gonna hafta be sophisticated and limit SPL maximums. It’s just gonna open a huge loop-hole otherwise!

  99. SRSLABS says:

    There have been consumer studies done on loud commercials and its no secret, majority of the people surveyed have experienced and are annoyed by loud volume fluctuations during commercial breaks. At SRS Labs, we’ve created a technology that can be found in several new HDTV models worldwide called SRS TruVolume. TruVolume is the answer people! It elminates those commercials for good. No need to hold on to your remote in fear of the next commercial break, just set your desired listening volume and let TruVolume do the rest. Check out our Web page, facebook page or Twitter page to learn more about what SRS Labs is doing to eliminate loud volume fluctuations for good, as well as discover the other great things we do with audio.

  100. SRSLABS says:

    I hate loud commercials as much as the next person. SRS Labs has a solution that levels out your volume so that you never have to be blasted off your couch again. Its called SRS TruVolume, visit http://www.truvolume.com to learn more. Even if some sort of regulation went in to play, you will still have commercials that blast you away because of the way they are mixed. By cutting out background noise and compressing the dynamic range of the audio, advertisers can still get around the regulation and project their announcers voice loudly. SRS TruVolume fixes this regardless of how the commercials are recorded. If you visit the link above, there you can enter to win 1 of 3 brand new Samsung flat screen tvs that feature this great new volume leveling solution.

    Best!

  101. galan says:

    The mute button on my remote is my answer to loud commercials. However, I keep it on through all of the rest of the commercials in the string … even if they are not at too high decibel levels. Thus, I miss any “message” these other advertisers are trying to convey. If this tactic were the rule rather than the exception if might provide an incentive for those other advertisers to demand a lower volume on all commercials.