News & Politics

New Law Makes Commercials Quieter

The CALM act mandates that commercials be no louder than the television shows they accompany. Thanks, I guess?

Even as the budget showdown continues, congress is determined to prove its worth. This week, commercials will be quieter.

On Thursday the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, called by the clever acronym the CALM Act, went into effect. Its provisions? Commercials be no louder than the show they accompany, so that if you have your Thursday night sitcom playing at a nice moderate volume, you see, you're not shocked into attention by a declaration of the MOST UNBELIEVABLE DEALS RIGHT NOW or the amazing PAJAMA JEANS you just have to have.

Here's the rundown:

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"This is clearly not the biggest thing happening in Washington. But it is one less nuisance," Sen.Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a sponsor of the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation, or CALM, Act, said at a Capitol Hill gathering to celebrate the law's implementation.

Under the rule, commercials should have the same average volume as the programs they accompany. The Federal Communications Commission, which has called loud TV commercials "one of the most persistent problems of the television age,"’ said it will rely on consumer complaints to monitor industry compliance.

President Obama signed the measure nearly two years ago, but it took time for the FCC to draw up rules, and for industry groups to work through the technical issues and come into compliance.

This is actually, a fairly helpful bill that protects consumers from noise poollution, but needless to say, this change, which will be enforced by consumer monitoring, apparently, has attracted its share of funny responses.

 One humorous blogger, Paul Whitefield, complained that  with technology moving at its current rapid pace, perhaps a law focusing on netflix, Hulu and on-demand might be more useful:
'Still, one problem with CALM may be that it’s a day late. After all, with TiVo and the Hopper and their ilk, does anyone actually watch TV commercials anymore? You get the feeling this is like the folks who solved the horse manure problem -- just as the Model T came along."
Whitefield also snarked that the baby boomers beginning to lose their hearing would render the law obsolete. Over at NPR's Monkee See, blogger Linda Holmes came up with new things for the FCC to regulate, like local snowblowers, neighbors who rehearse with their bands, and other sources of noise. For example:
2. The Construction Hurts Everyone Really Everywhere Act (C-HERE). Authorizes anyone living or working within two blocks of a piledriver to lean out the window and scream, "NOW SEE HERE," at which point the operator of the piledriver must apologize profusely and desist immediately.

Sarah Seltzer is a freelance writer based in New York City. Her work has been published at the Nation, the Christian Science Monitor, Jezebel and the Washington Post. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahmseltzer and find her work at