Tell me if this has happened to you.
You’re sitting at home. The television is on, but in the background. It’s not what you’re focusing on. You’re embroiled in homework, or work-work, or reading something online. The television is tuned to Animal Planet or National Geographic or CSPAN; it’s ambient noise.
Then, whatever show you’re not really watching cuts to commercial. The first advertisement apparently was designed for the deaf, as the volume disparity alarms you in a way that causes your heart to momentarily stop and the windows to shatter.
You think, “Isn’t there a guy for that? It seems like that should be someone’s job.”
And it should be. For a television commercial to be drastically louder (or softer) than the general channel’s feed, it requires many, many people to be asleep at a variety of switches along the way from the advertisement’s initial recording to it’s broadcast. You should not have been startled in a way that transfers your morning coffee from mug to everywhere.
With that, let me say: Happy CALM Day!
The vast majority of Americans have no idea what that means. But to those of us who were raised in the unregulated, wild wild west era of television commercial volume disparity era (easily comparable to the Great Depression), this day will go down in history. It should be a national holiday.
Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) introduced the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM, get it?) in the House in February of 2009, and it passed by a voice vote – with no objections – in December of the same year. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) introduced its companion legislation in the Senate (despite a false Wiki attribution), where it also passed unanimously the following September. President Obama signed it into law on December 14, 2010. There was a year’s worth of comment period, followed by a report, followed by a required year of grace before implementation.
During that year of grace period, people annoyed by inordinately loud commercials seeking to complain to the FCC were greeted with hilariously unhelpful instructions on the website: “Manually controlling volume levels with the remote control remains the simplest way to reduce excessive loudness levels. The ‘mute’ button on your TV remote is also useful to control excessively loud audio.”
But today is the day of implementation. We have broken free of the bureaucratic buffer zone.
Starting with this very AM, when you have that unpleasant experience of being jolted out of your chair by an offensively uncoordinated advertisement’s volume level, here’s what you do:
- Go to FCC.gov
- Click on the link immediately to the right of the search bar, labeled “TAKE ACTION.”
- Do what we do best: “Complain.”
- Click: Broadcast (TV and Radio), Cable, and Satellite Issues
- Click the new addition at the bottom: “Loud Commercials.”
- There is an online form, a .PDF form to download and email in, a phone number, a snail mail address, and a Fax number.
Time’s a-wastin’. Let’s get to work.