As expected, the Senate Commerce Committee passed the CALM (Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation) Act, which officially adopts the Advanced Television Systems Committee's recommended practices for variations in commercial volume in relation to the programs around them. The bill passed June 9 by unanimous consent, which means there was no recorded vote.
"Excessively loud television advertisements may seem like a small thing, but they are a big source of irritation for many television viewers," said Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) "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."
The bill, which passed the House in essentially the same form, directs the FCC to regluate 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 a wavier (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 the 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 must return to the House, which must vote again on the bill since it has changed.
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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.