If the federal gridlock over the fiscal cliff has you doubting the ability of the government to get anything important done, comfort yourself with the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (yes, thats CALM) Act. Passed into law in December 2010 but now mandatory as of Thursday, the CALM Act directs the Federal Communications Commission to require television advertisements to be no louder than the programs during which they appear.
And unlike many federal regulations that are derided as too long and complex for U.S. business to properly implement (a common complaint about health care reform legislation and the U.S tax code, for example), the CALM Act lays out its rules, waiver information, and definitions for broadcasters in a terse page and a half [PDF].
The FCC says the new law affects TV stations, cable operators, satellite TV providers, or other multichannel video program distributors, and adds that it does not cover radio or Internet advertisements.
The agency adopted formal rules for CALM in December 2011 and gave the broadcast industry one year to comply with the law.
This latest bit of regulation does actually address a real issue for U.S. consumers: Loud commercials have been a leading source of complaints to the FCC since its consumer call center began reporting top complaints in 2002, according to CNN. The agency reports receiving about 1,000 complaints and about 5,000 inquiries in reference to loud ads.
The FCC has issued a Consumer Guide [PDF] about the law, which notes: A commercial may have louder and quieter moments, but, overall, it should be no louder than the surrounding programming. This may mean, however, that some commercials will comply with the new rules, but still sound too loud to some viewers. And lest we fear theres no paperwork to accompany the CALM Act, the agency has also created Form 2000G, which has been created to specifically accommodate complaints about loud television commercials.
It may come as no surprise that not everyone is taking the CALM Act entirely seriously. On NPRs Monkey See blog, Linda Holmes suggests some similar regulations for Congress to consider, including The Pokemon Electronic Whizbang Popcap EA Worldofwarcraft Put an End to it Would you Act (PEWPEWPEW), which requires anyone playing a video game in the presence of others for more than five minutes to offer to turn off or turn down any incidental music; and The Sidewalk Noises Of Winter Just Eliminate Real Kindness Act (SNOW JERK), which requires anyone who runs a snowblower before 9:00 in the morning on a weekend to blow the snow off of everyone's driveway in the entire neighborhood, and then serve hot chocolate, and then stop doing that forever.
The bill was sponsored by Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI). According to The Hill, Whitehouse attended a Thursday-morning press conference about the CALM Act at which he acknowledged that this is a small issue compared to the big challenges facing our nation, but noted that loud TV commercials are an unnecessary annoyance in the daily lives of many Americans, and I'm glad to have done something about it.