New Bill Would Close Streaming Service Ad-Volume ‘Loophole’

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Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) have reintroduced House and Senate versions of the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Modernization Act, which would extend limits on TV commercial ad loudness to ads on streaming services.

Their 2010 CALM Act directed the FCC to ensure that ads on TV were not louder than the surrounding programming.

The updated legislation would extend the regulation to “all ad-supported streaming services,” as well as FCC's ability to investigate violations of the act by broadcast, cable and satellite providers, as well as streamers. It would also require the FCC to study the effectiveness of the CALM Act to date.

One criticism of the legislation is that the standard for volume is a commercial’s average loudness, so silences or reduced volume could allow for louder passages elsewhere in the ad.

“I authored the CALM Act in 2010 with Senator Whitehouse to put an end to the booming ads on TV that were highly annoying for consumers,” Eshoo said. "Since the law was enacted, new popular streaming services have recreated the practice of loud ads because the old law doesn't apply to them, and consumers continue to complain about loud ads on broadcast, cable, and satellite TV.”

Said Whitehouse, “I’m pleased to partner with Congresswoman Eshoo to strengthen our CALM Act to clamp down on loud ads on streaming platforms and give viewers a break.”

The bill gives the FCC a year to come up with regulations for streaming service ad loudness, but the requirement would not kick in until 180 days later.

There will also be an opportunity for the FCC to give streamers an extra year to comply if doing so sooner would be a demonstrable financial hardship. ▪️

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.