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Loud TV commercials may finally end

Viewers have been complaining almost since people first had TVs at home.

By Teresa Mears Dec 14, 2009 2:49PM

Since the 1960s, consumers have been complaining about loud TV commercials.


Finally, Congress and broadcasters seem to be paying attention (maybe consumers should have bought some loud commercials themselves?). Legislation filed two years ago by Rep. Anna Eshoo, a Democrat from California, may come to a House vote as early as this week.


It only took 45 years of consumer complaints, according to Consumers Union.


We can all wonder whether Congress would ever have gotten results without the cooperation of the industry. The move to keep TV commercials close to the volume of the shows was aided by the transition to digital television, The San Jose Mercury-News reports.


"The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act," or CALM, actually will codify into law a set of standards that broadcasters agreed on last month. Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate last week.


Eshoo introduced the law to turn down the volume on TV commercials two years ago. She says she’s gotten more response to the bill than anything she’s worked on during her 17 years in Congress, except maybe “do not call” legislation on telemarketing.


"So many other issues we deal with have enormous complexity," Eshoo told The Mercury-News. "This is something everyone can absolutely and readily identify with."

Dan Jaffe, executive vice president for the Association of National Advertisers, said advertisers and broadcasters have gotten the message from Congress' involvement.


"Advertisers want to sell things to people. They don't want to annoy them," Jaffe told the newspaper. "It's something we think needs to be done."


Believe it or not, there actually are some people who think Congress is wasting its time regulating the volume of TV ads, according to The Los Angeles Times.


"I think there is a certain contract when one decides to watch broadcast television that you're going to be sold stuff in annoying ways," Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University, told The Times. "I just don't think it's bothering that many people that much."


Or maybe more people just have TiVo and are fast-forwarding through all the commercials.


Texas Rep. Joe L. Barton, who is on the House committee that oversees telecommunications, asked rhetorically, "If we're going to dictate the noise level ... what about commercials that advertise products that we don't particularly care for?"

Well, that’s under consideration. Currently pending are measures to restrict junk food advertising in response to childhood obesity and to prohibit commercials for erectile dysfunction drugs such as Viagra between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., according to The Times.


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