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FCC Sets Dec. 13 Public Vote For CALM Act

The Federal Communications Commission has scheduled a public vote Dec. 13 for its order implementing the CALM Act, which requires cable operators and TV stations to moderate the volume of their commercials to the level of the programming surrounding it.

The FCC was charged with completing rules for implementing the congressional mandate by Dec. 15, a year from the date the bill was signed into law.

In its notice of proposed rulemaking issued in May, the FCC put the onus on stations and cable operators to mitigate that loudness on all commercials, not just those that are locally inserted, as some industry representatives had argued it should be limited to.

The NPRM also asked for input on what challenges some stations and cable operators will have in complying with the new rules, and even more important, proposed solutions. Among the questions it wants answered are if a cable operator retransmits a TV station whose commercials don't comply, who does the FCC hold responsible?

The CALM Act empowers the FCC to regularize the volume between programming and commercials. It adopts the Advanced Television Systems Committee's recommended practices for variations in commercial volume in relation to the programs around them.

Both cable operators and broadcasters have argued in comments to, and meetings with, the FCC, that they cannot be expected to monitor and be held responsible for the millions of commercials they pass along from the networks, and cable operators have argued they shouldn't be responsible for the commercials on TV stations they retransmit.
National Cable & Telecommunications Association officials have told the FCC that if the commission expects its members to be responsible for the loudness of national commercials, operators should be able to do so through contractual assurances from programmers or advertisers.

The NCTA and the American Cable Association agreed that the FCC should provide waivers to smaller systems, particularly ones that do not feature local ad insertion.

Dish Network and DirecTV have argued that they bump up the volume on entire channels to make sure all their subs can hear them now, as it were, and want the FCC to make it clear that implementation of the CALM act does not prevent that.

Broadcasters have contended that they should not be held responsible for loud commercials in network or syndicated programming.