How the CALM Act Promises to End Our Regular Games of TV Volume-Control Teeter-Totter

TV volume control, CALM Act

“Left! Left! GO LEFT! The Cialis spokesman will wake the baby!”

As a habitual night-owl who does his best to permit his normalized family their precious circadian rhythms, I’ve found that watching TV in the evening requires continuous vigilance to ensure that my programs don’t detonate a virtual sonic bomb in the living room when they go to commercial. Some channels have been better than others. It took me a fair amount of trial-and-error to determine the exact volume numbers to use as my thresholds while watching NBC’s Revolution on our set — up to 19 during the show, down to 14 during commercial breaks — to minimize my disturbance of others. Up and down, back and forth, ping and pong, I’d keep dragging the onscreen cursor in a tricky balancing act, lest I invoke the wrath of the rudely awakened if I failed to compensate quickly enough.

Last weekend we found one basic-cable channel that was far more egregious about it. Some senseless marketing department apparently asserted authority over the ad volume and insisted on a difference of dozens of degrees between it and the volume level of the actual show. I enjoy Dean Winters in those GEICO skits as much as the next Sarah Connor Chronicles fan, but bludgeoning my eardrums with his insurance pitch will not clinch a GEICO sale in our household.

Thankfully, the FCC decided last year that enough was enough, that this irritation merited official government interference. Effective December 13, 2012, the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act will finally take effect after a one-year grace period that a few companies obviously didn’t take seriously. The new rule according to the FCC’s official site states as follows:


Beginning on December 13, 2012, the FCC’s new rules will require TV stations, cable operators, satellite TV providers and other pay TV providers to limit a commercial’s average volume to the same average volume as the programming it accompanies. A commercial may have louder and quieter moments, but overall it will be no louder than surrounding programming.

Since the FCC is a little short on the resources that would be necessary to monitor all seven zillion cable channels out there, they’ve also provided contact info online if viewers wish to tattletale on offenders and shriek back at Madison Avenue the way their creations have been shrieking at us.

I usually don’t harbor sincere wishes for government action against frequent irritations (as opposed to, say, life-threatening things), but I thought it was generous of the FCC to acknowledge the practice and remind advertisers that their domination of our lives and choices is not at 100% yet, that a modicum of restraint might be in order if they don’t want the rest of us hangers-on to join the other 21st-century consumers who’ve already fled commercial-ridden TV altogether in favor of DVR, DVD sets, and Internet alternatives.

Thank you, FCC, for facilitating this new pleasantry. This almost makes up for that time in the 1980s when you ruined all the best toy commercials and toy-based cartoons of my childhood. Almost.

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About Randall A. Golden
A Hoosier since birth, a geek since age 6, a father since age 22, and a Christian since age 30. Full-time customer service rep; part-time Internet participant; content provider to Nightly.net since 2001; prone to Twitter-lurking as @RandallGolden . Views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect those of any other corporation, being, or party line.

2 Responses to How the CALM Act Promises to End Our Regular Games of TV Volume-Control Teeter-Totter

  1. It’s just so annoying. I mute some TV shows and most advertising now and that’s how I deal with all that noise!

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