Excessively loud television commercials should be a thing of the past, thanks to the Federal Communications Commission.
Responding to years of complaints that the volume on commercials was much louder than that of the programming that the ads accompany, the FCC on Tuesday passed the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act to make sure that the sound level is the same for commercials and news and entertainment programming.
"Most of us have … experienced this ourselves: You're watching your favorite television program, or the news, and all of a sudden, a commercial comes on, and it sounds like someone turned up the volume — but no one did. Today, the FCC is quieting a persistent problem of the television age: loud commercials," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said in a statement.
FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps said, "I cannot tell you how many hundreds of citizens have told me — personally, through emails and letters, at public hearings, even across the family dinner table — how obnoxiously intrusive they find loud commercials."
The act comes a year after Congress passed legislation regarding commercial volume and directed the FCC to come up with enforcement rules. The architect of the bill was Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-Menlo Park), who pushed for the legislation after hearing complaints about loud commercials from her family.
The FCC said cable and satellite TV companies as well as local broadcasters will be required to make sure the volume on commercials is kept in check. The rules go into effect in December 2012.
"We're glad that consumers are finally going to get some relief from extra-loud TV ads," said Parul P. Desai, policy counsel for Consumers Union. "People have been complaining about the volume of TV commercials for decades."
Viewers are not the only ones who will be glad to hear the volume come down on commercials. Producers have also often griped about the discrepancies between the sound of commercials and of their programming.
"It may be the single best thing government has ever done," said "Modern Family" co-creator Steve Levitan. "Now if they could just mute the volume of political ads, I'd be thrilled."
Dick O'Brien, an executive vice president of the American Assn. of Advertising Agencies, said Madison Avenue is in favor of the new rules.
"We like it better when the public feels good about our ads," he said.