Bill wants to quiet loud commercials

You know the feeling: Watching TV, reclined comfortably on the couch, when suddenly a booming advertisement startles you, forcing you to scramble for mute button. And this happens during every commercial break.

A bill is making its way through the U.S. Congress, asking the FCC to regulate the volume of television ads. The “Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act” (CALM) seeks, quite simply to keep the volume of ads in line with the programs they support. The bill, introduced by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), is awaiting a vote in the House Energy and Commerce committee, having cleared a subcommittee, Ars Technica reports.

“Most Americans are not overjoyed to watch television commercials, but they are willing to tolerate them to sustain free over-the-air television. What annoys all of us is the sudden increase of volume when commercials are aired,” Eshoo said.

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Interest in this issue isn’t isolated to Congress. ATSC, a group that sets television specs in the U.S., has an Audio Loudness group that tackles the matter, along with issues of volume variations between stations. And some TV manufacturers include compression features to keep volume within a certain range. Dolby, meanwhile, is working on a solution that regulates volume while preserving the audio’s dynamic range.

Most amusing, however, is that the FCC actually recommends muting a commercial if it’s too loud. Therein lies the foolishness of excessively loud commercials: If they’re so annoying that viewers intentionally try to avoid them, doesn’t that defeat the purpose of making them louder to begin with?

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