Broadcasters applaud quiet commercial bill


However, they do not want Congress to pass any such thing – execs explained that engineers are on the verge of preventing commercials from being broadcast at screech level in between regular programming, and say the bill could only slow things down.

At issue was H.R. 1084, the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM Act), introduced by Anna Eshoo (D-CA). It seeks to end the practice of bumping the volume way up from program levels when a commercial comes on.

The matter was lacking in controversy, since everybody was in complete agreement that commercials need to be toned down.

Testifying on the matter were Joel Kelsey, Policy Analyst, Consumers Union, David Donovan, President, Association for Maximum Service Television, Inc., Joel Kelsey, Policy Analyst, Consumers Union, and Jim Starzynski, Principal Engineer and Audio Architect, NBC Universal, Advanced Engineering.

Kelsey said this has been a viewer concern for 45 years now, and noted that many nations, including Australia, Brazil, Russia, the UK and many others, have already enacted such legislation.

Donovan applauded Eshoo for introducing the bill, and said the last thing broadcasters wish to do is annoy their viewers. For that reason, broadcasters are totally behind the concept of toning the commercials down. Donovan said that new digital technology offer ways to address the problem, but it must not come at the cost of diminishing the audio range available to support viewers with state-of-the-art home theater set-ups. He said the industry, led by the big four networks, have been working on this since 2007 and are on the verge of having it solved. He said it would become an industry standard that would hold for local and syndicated programming, as well as for cable, satellite and telco video platforms.

Starzynski supported Donovan’s testimony. He said the Advanced Television Systems Committee just about has a way to take material from hundreds of sources and whip it into a standard format that will limit commercial loudness.

Both asked that legislation and FCC involvement be tabled until legislators see how well broadcasters have done on their own. During the question and answer period, Lee Terry (R-NE) was OK with that, but said if nothing has changed by September, this will be a very popular bill, just like do-not-call was, and that broadcasters would be getting it whether they want it or not.

RBR/TVBR observation: We have rarely covered a hearing with so little dissension. As Donovan said, the last thing broadcasters want to do is annoy and ultimately drive away viewers. We suspect there will be no need to revisit this issue.