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A SWAT for a bill that solves an imaginary TV problem

Submitted by on Friday, 20 February 2009 2 Comments

Attention, Billy Mays: I’d rub two sticks together and flame-broil a burger before I’d ever buy a Big City Slider “station.” With two small children, I  hear enough  yelling every day without you screaming at me in a commercial that’s 10 times louder than the show around it.

Except here’s the problem: The commercial really isn’t louder than the show. It just seems that way.

But never let the facts get in the way of an elected officials with a pet peeve. Particularly a peeve that even Joe the Plumber could grasp.

For two sessions in a row, California Democrat Anna Eshoo has introduced CALM — the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act. How’s that for an acronym looking for fancy words to fill it out?

CALM would require the Federal Communications Commission to set standards to keep commercials from running at louder volume than the shows around them. It also would ban ads that are “excessively noisy or strident,” though it seems a stridency test would effectively clear the airwaves of most political advertising.

With 21 cosponsors this year’s version, HR 1084, is picking up steam – it has a way to go, though, before it reaches last year’s level of 93 backers. Its Senate companion, S 3156 by Mississippi Republican Robert Wicker, has two backers.

Finally: An issue both parties can rally around. Too bad it’s largely nonexistent.

Under current FCC regulations – as well as technical reality – commercials cannot be louder than the shows they accompany. It seems that way, though, because commercials often air at peak volume for the duration, while the sound on a show will ebb and flow.

Eshoo knows that, too.

“A TV program has a mix of audio levels,” she told the Cleveland Plain Dealer last year. “There are loud and soft parts. Nuance is used to build the dramatic effect. Most advertisers don’t want nuance. They want to grab our attention, and to do this, they record every part of it as loud as possible.”

Though the FCC has little, if any, authority over cable and satellite industries, current versions of CALM refer to “any video programming that is broadcast or that is distributed by any multichannel video programming distributor.”

If Congress is going to sic the FCC  on cable and satellite, why not start with a real issue such as a la carte programming instead of a “problem” consumers already are equipped to solve on their own.

It’s called volume control. Most modern televisions come equipped with remotes, so you don’t even  have to get up to crank it down.

There are no cost estimates on an FCC solution, because last year’s bills didn’t even make it as far as a committee hearing or Congressional Budget Office analysis. The new model should meet the same fate.

Rep. Eshoo and Sen. Wicker, Stop Wasting America’s Time.

Know of someone who deserves a SWAT? Click here to make a nomination.

Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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  • Vanilla Cokehead said:

    Give me a break – aren’t there more important things for the Feds to be tackling right now – like the economy going belly-up, or people losing their jobs, or houses being foreclosed on left and right? Well put, Debra!

  • Debra said:

    The sad part: I have no problem at all finding something to SWAT every week. This week there were at least two worth candidates, and Congress has been in recess since last Friday.

    Please, folks: Focus