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Markup Planned For Commercial Loudness Bill

It is unclear whether the broadcast and cable industries can avoid a legislative fix to the issue of commercial volume (that's loudness, not amount), even as they complete a self-regulatory standard to regularize the volume of ads relative to programming content.

The good news is that even if it is set in regulatory stone, the remedy may be the one favored by industry, according to sources.

According to sources, the House Energy & Commerce Committee is scheduling a markup this Thursday (Oct. 8) on the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), would require the FCC to adopt the commercial volume standard being worked on by the TV industry with the backing of  advertisers and agencies.

The idea is to insure that the volume of ads isn't too loud and isn't louder than the surrounding programming.

According to sources both in the industry and on Capitol Hill, there is a manager's amendment expected to be introduced in either a full-committee mark-up or Communications Subcommittee mark-up--that would accept the industry-developed standard, give the industry two years to phase it in, and provide for hardship waivers.

A mark-up is where amendments are debated and, usually, a vote taken on the bill. A managers amendment is one usually agreed to beforehand by both sides managing the debate on a bill and containing enough substantive changes that it is easier to introduce as a substitute to the entire bill.

The baseline bill, as referred to the committee back in February, would prevent commercials from: "(1) being excessively noisy or strident; (2) having modulation levels substantially higher than the accompanying program; and (3) having an average maximum loudness substantially higher than that of the accompanying program."

Advertisers and industry are on the same page on the need to adopt standards.

In fact, according to a source, the Advanced Television Systems Committee, which has set various TV-related standards including the digital TV transmission standard, has gotten a general sign-off and is now down to the tweaking stage on the "recommended practice" standard, targeting November for the official unveiling. Advertisers and agencies are said to be OK with the move.

The technology was reportedly demonstrated for Eshoo recently, with the reaction described as "enthusiastic."

Eshoo's office had no comment at press time.