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Ads too loud? Try 'mute'

Editorial

A bill requiring TV broadcasters to turn down the volume of advertisements is unnecessary government intervention.

December 16, 2009

Television viewers are a notoriously dissatisfied bunch, complaining often about lousy programming, foul language, superficiality and assorted other irritations. Although most of these shortcomings are matters of individual taste, on one point viewers are unified: TV commercials are too loud. That complaint has been voiced almost since the dawn of advertiser-supported TV, yet neither broadcasters nor advertisers have put a stop to the volume surges.

On Tuesday, the House approved a bill to turn down the advertisers' volume. The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act by Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Menlo Park) would require all local stations, cable and satellite TV operators to follow the volume-limiting guidelines adopted by the digital TV standards group. Congressional analysts estimated that the measure would cost those operators a relatively small amount; they put no value on the relief to viewers rattled by commercials that seem far louder than the shows they interrupt.

Eshoo might have the public on her side, but as a representative of Silicon Valley, she should be more wary of having the government dictate technological solutions to problems that individuals can solve themselves. The market is already responding -- more than 30% of TV viewers use ad-skipping video recorders. Besides, as dissenting Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee pointed out, "Americans' televisions still have volume control, and remote controls still have 'mute' buttons. Consumers do not need the government to come into their homes and operate their remote controls for them." With all the challenges facing the country, you'd think lawmakers could find better things to do than invite themselves into their constituents' living rooms.

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