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Glenn Halbrooks

Get Set to Enjoy Quieter TV Commercials

By December 13, 2012

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While Washington is at a standstill in avoiding the looming fiscal cliff, millions of TV viewers still have reason to cheer the feds. A new act that sets limits on the volume of TV commercials goes into effect today.

A photo of a television master control room
Under a new federal law, the sound level of TV commercials will now be regulated.
Photo © VisionsofAmerica / Joe Sohm / Getty Images
It's called the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act, which was signed by President Obama in 2010. The rules actually went into effect a year ago, but television service providers had a year to make adjustments.

The new act says commercials have to have the same average volume as TV programs. For years, viewers have complained that when a program went to a commercial break, the ads would blare loudly.

You might think that people selling TV commercials had promised clients to boost their volume as part of signing an advertising deal. The truth is, the wide range in volume can usually be blamed on equipment or personnel. Think of what it's like to download music from the Internet -- audio levels vary widely based on who created the original file.

Some viewers will likely still complain about the volume of TV commercials. If a quiet scene of their favorite show gives way to a car dealer's ad, they will notice a difference in audio. It's the average sound that counts.

Still, if you see a broadcaster, cable or satellite provider continually breaking the CALM Act, you can complain to the FCC. Now if Congress would only turn down the volume of its own rhetoric in handling the fiscal cliff crisis.

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