photoThink TV commercials are too loud? Almost everyone does and, although you would think it would have better things to do, Congress has passed a law about it.

The Commercial Advertisement Mitigation Act (CALM), enacted last December, directs the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to do something about it and the FCC is now preparing to do just that.

The CALM Act loudly assets that television commercials should not be “transmitted at louder volumes than the program material they accompany.”

The Commission has come up with a proposed rule that, if approved, will become effective will become one year after it's adopted.

The Commission concedes that the issue has been a sore spot for consumers for years. In fact, it says that loud commercials “have been a leading source of complaints virtually since the inception of commercial television, more than 50 years ago.”

One common complaint “is that a commercial is abruptly louder than the adjacent programming,” the Commission said, noting that the problems occurs in over-the-air broadcasts as well as in cable, satellite and other video programming.

Many complaints

The FCC's consumer call center has reported receiving 819 complaints since January 2008 and 4,582 “inquiries” from consumers about the issue.

The Commission notes that it has not previously tried to regulate the loudness of commercials because of the “subjective nature” of loudness.

In fact, in testimony before Congress, FCC officials said there is “no consistent method” to measure and control audio loudness, and said there problems “seems to have been exacerbated by the transition to digital television.”

“DTV's expanded aural dynamic range allows for greater variations in loudness” but also offers the opportunity to more easily manage loudness, FCC experts said.

The proposed new rule describes the procedure by which broadcasters can more accurately control the loudness of various program elements by using a “dialnorm” standard that will eliminate spikes in loudness during transitions from one program source to another.