12/17/2010

TV sets will stop shouting commercials, soon

TV viewers can control the volume of their digital TV sets with pin-point precision along a scale from 0 to 100. But viewers' settings have been virtually worthless when commercials come on, because many broadcasters boost the sound volume of commercials. They do this, apparently, so commercials can be heard even by viewers who've left the room for a quick visit to the refrigerator (or elsewhere). The volume boost may be unobjectionable to those who do leave the room, but it's an auditory assault on those who don't. After years of viewer complaints, and assertions that "there ought to be a law," there finally is. Congress has enacted, and the President has signed, the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act. The new law - popularly known as the CALM Act - requires the FCC to adopt (within one year) a regulation that will limit the loudness of TV commercials to a level recommended by the Advanced Television Systems Committee - a non-profit organization that develops international standards for digital television. (In return, broadcasters would probably like a law that prohibits viewers from recording programs and fast-forwarding through commercials; but that wasn't, and isn't, on the table.)