Monday, June 14, 2010

Senate Commerce Seeks to CALM the Television Airwaves


Specifically, the panel agreed with the House of Representatives that something needs to be done about television commercials that blast into American living rooms at significantly higher volume levels than the programming they are supporting.

The measure passed without need of a recorded vote.

Broadcasters have testified that the phenomenon of excessively loud commercials are not something that they deliberately inflict on their loyal viewers – rather it is a result of the fact that commercials come from a wide variety of sources, not all of which are operating on the same page when it comes to standards.

But legislators have living rooms, and they are invaded by loud commercials just as are the living rooms of average constituents – a fact which has given the CALM Act widespread bipartisan support.

The Act was described by Senate Commerce Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), who stated, “S. 2847, the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act would require the FCC to enforce internationally accepted standards of advertisement volumes. Excessively loud television advertisements may seem like a small thing — but they are a big source of irritation for many television viewers. This bill will help put a stop to the annoying practice of featuring television advertisements that are many times louder than television programming. I am thankful that Senator Whitehouse has introduced this bill, and I am happy to be a cosponsor.”

Although a vote was not recorded, at least one Committee member was skeptical of the bill. Roger Wicker (R-MS) stated, “In response to legislation I introduced in 2008, the television industry has been moving in the right direction on commercial advertising audio volume. Therefore, I do not believe government intervention is necessary at this time. I am glad to see that this bill includes industry standards, and I hope industry leaders will continue to make progress and Congress will not have to act on this issue.”

Next step for this bill is the Senate floor, and after that, assuming thumbs are up, it’s on to the Oval Office for a presidential autograph.

RBR-TVBR observation: This bill, if it passes – and there is absolutely no reason to think that it won’t – will be a boon for equipment manufacturers who have gizmos devised that can make necessary volume adjustments automatically.

Broadcast Union News: The reason for the wide range of audio levels is that the television industry has eliminated most of the broadcast engineer jobs and TV stations no longer take the time to make sure that audio and video levels match. The shows and commercials come in from various sources through automation, are loaded into the automated playback systems automatically, and the automation plays the shows and commercials to air. There is no engineer balancing audio and video levels. Robotic cameras, automated control rooms, shared service agreements, and media consolidation have put profit margins ahead of both quality and the public interest.

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