CALM Act Creator Rep. Eshoo Eyes Streaming Services

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Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) has signaled that Congress may need to explore expanding her legislation regulating the volume of TV ads to include streaming services, while FCC chairman Ajit Pai said the Hill is where any such expansion will have to come from.

That came in a letter to Pai seeking data on how the FCC has enforced the CALM Act.

The 2010 bill, whose full name is the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, regulates the volume of broadcast, cable and satellite commercials in relation to the programming around them. The idea was to prevent commercials the volume of commercials from being significantly higher than the surrounding programming.

Essentially the bill incorporates ATSC standards for preventing "large changes in audio loudness from program to interstitials and from channel to channel."

"[T]he growing ubiquity of new formats for consuming video services raises questions about the need to expand the reach of the CALM Act to additional types of providers that Congress may consider," Eshoo wrote the chairman last month.

In asking for data about FCC complaints over loud commercials, she included streaming services in the request for a breakout of what services were being complained about and the most-complained about companies. She also asked if the FCC had studied the "broader issue" of commercial volume on streaming services and, if so, wanted to know what it had concluded. She did not say there was necessarily any problem with over-the-top volumes on over-the-top content, but included it in a general call for looking beyond the traditional TV distribution channels covered by the almost decade-old law.

Pai responded that the top complained-about companies were Comcast, Charter, Cox, AT&T, Verizon, Mediacom, DirecTV and Dish, but that complaints had been going down steadily over the past few years, citing for one thing the FCC's 2014 tweak to discourage producing silent passages in some ads to offset excessively loud ones--the volume is an average over the entire commercial.

As to weighing into streaming service volume, Pai said: "[A]s you note, the CALM Act does not apply to radio or streaming services. Accordingly, the Commission does not have the authority over such services in this regard and has neither collected data from them nor studied the broader issue of commercial volume across these or other similar platforms."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.