We bet that Americans who spent more time than usual in front of the TV the past two weeks because of the Olympics have a greater appreciation for U.S. Rep. Anna G. Eshoo's crusade.
The California Democrat never gave up in her quest to have Congress put a stop to loud television commercials. She started trying in 2008. In September 2010, Congress passed the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, or CALM Act, directing the FCC to draw up rules ensuring TV commercials aren't louder than the TV programs they follow. The FCC adopted those rules in December 2011. They go into effect this December.
Yes, the legislation requires television stations and cable companies to buy equipment to dampen the volume of obnoxiously loud commercials, thus increasing their costs. But it is the only way consumers will regain control of their own television sets. As Rep. Eschoo put it, "Consumers will no longer need to dive for the 'mute' button during commercial breaks."
The FCC affirms that loud TV ads are exceedingly annoying to the public - they topped the list of complaints received by the FCC in 21 of 25 quarters reported starting in 2002. In fact, loud TV ads are so annoying and so often cause consumers to hit the mute button that it's a wonder advertisers continue to want the volume turned up.
We note that after a few years, some of the requirements will expire - but the FCC will continue to respond to consumer complaints about loud commercials.
Meanwhile, you can report TV commercials that seem louder than the program they follow to the FCC right now. Be sure to note the time, channel, a description of the commercial, and whether you are watching TV using cable or satellite service or are watching broadcast television using an antenna.
You can file your complaint with the FCC's Consumer Call Center at 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) voice or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322). Your complaint can also be faxed to 1-866-418-0232, or mailed to:
Federal Communications Commission
Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries & Complaints Division
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20554