Has this ever happened to you? You’re watching television, or maybe it’s on in the background while you do something else (yes, I’m one of those people), and you’ve got the television volume at a comfortable level; loud enough to hear, but not loud enough to shatter eardrums. The program-already-in-progress goes into a commercial break, and the next thing you know some guy is screaming at you to buy OxyClean or some such, causing you to jump about three feet before you dive for the remote, to turn the volume down (only to have to turn it back up again when the show starts.)
No matter what you think you’ve heard, TV commercials really don’t get louder than the programs they accompany.
Production tricks only make them sound like they do. It’s called “inconsistent” or “perceived” loudness. Perceived or not, the problem likely will get worse with digital television.
The annoyance is real enough that U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo is making a federal case of it. Fed up to her ears at being blasted off the couch by commercials, the California Democrat introduced a bill in Congress called CALM — the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act. It would require the Federal Communications Commission to set standards to keep commercials from running at louder volume than the shows around them. A similar rule in England takes effect next month.
“There’s been a shockingly lot of reaction,” said Eshoo aide Jason Mahler, who noted that the bill quickly picked up nine co-sponsors. “It’s all been favorable.”
This has been somewhere near the bottom of my “There Oughta Be a Law” file for a while now, but I’d love to see it passed. Anna, why not slip it quietly (get it) into some “must pass” funding legislation?