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CALM Act Expected to Pass Out of Senate Commerce Committee

The Senate Commerce Committee is marking up Wednesday, and likely will pass without amendment, the CALM (Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation) Act, which officially adopts the Advanced Television Systems Committee's (ATSC) recommended practices for controlling variations in commercial volume in relation to the programs.

The bill has already passed the House in essentially the same form. It would direct the FCC to regulate commercial volume per the ATSC recommendations adopted last November. It gives cable operators and broadcasters a year from the law's adoption to comply.

The Senate version has a few slight tweaks. One clarifies that the standards will be an FCC "mandate," not simply an incorporation of the ATSC guidelines. Another extends that mandate to any "successor" standard approved by ATSC.

A third change deals with the language of a waiver (of up to two years beyond the effective date) for small cable operators or stations for whom adopting the regime, and the equipment necessary to regularize the volume, would be a financial hardship.

The waiver language in both House and Senate versions is the same, but the Senate bill makes reference to it higher in the bill as a parenthetical caveat in the language establishing the mandate, saying that mandate is "subject to any waivers the commission may grant."

Once the bill passes out of committee, it will need full Senate approval, then goes back to the House to vote on the changes.