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RIP excessively loud TV commercials

By Mike M. Ahlers, CNN
updated 7:56 AM EST, Thu December 13, 2012
The new regulation is supposed to keep the ad's volume at the same level as the program's volume.
The new regulation is supposed to keep the ad's volume at the same level as the program's volume.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A new rule mandates that ads maintain the same volume as TV shows
  • It stems from the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation, or CALM, Act
  • Political ads must comply

Washington (CNN) -- Say goodbye to one of the greatest irritants of modern life: television commercials that are MUCH LOUDER THAN THE SHOW YOU ARE WATCHING!

Beginning Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission is barring broadcasters and pay TV providers from airing excessively loud commercials, saying ads must maintain the "same average volume" as the programs they accompany.

The move -- which undoubtedly will make many TV viewers happier, and save countless marriages -- addresses a problem that, regulators say, is almost as old as television itself.

Loud commercials have been a leading source of complaints to the FCC since its consumer call center began reporting top complaints in 2002.

Since January 2008, the FCC has received about 1,000 complaints and about 5,000 inquiries, the commission said.

Congress mandated the change in the aptly named Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation, or CALM, Act in 2010. Last year, the FCC set a December 13, 2012, deadline for full compliance.

Until now, the FCC says it didn't regulate the "loudness" of commercials mainly because it was difficult to craft rules. For one thing, loudness is subjective.

So, for years, the commission advised customers to mute their TVs or lower the volume.

The CALM Act bill had wide bipartisan support, passing the Senate unanimously and the House by a voice vote.

Bill supporters Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-California, and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-Rhode Island, and industry representatives plan an event in Washington on Thursday to mark the full implementation of the law.

The FCC says it has granted two temporary waivers to the law: one to South Georgia Governmental Services Authority, a municipal cable system, because of financial hardship; and to WPFO in Waterville, Maine, which asked for a grant because it is relocating its facilities.

Non-commercial television stations are exempt from the act. Political ads, however, must comply.

The FCC will not monitor compliance, but instead will rely on consumer complaints to assist the commission to enforce the rule.

Complaints can be filed by using the online complaint form, 2000G, at http://www.fcc.gov/complaints.

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