Anna Eshoo wants CALM to apply universally


Here’s a story that goes to show the complexities of the federal machinery in Washington DC. House Communications Subcommittee Ranking Member Anna Eshoo (D-CA) successfully shepherded her CALM Act through Congress and the President signed it into law – and still she is chasing it around the FCC to make sure it does precisely what she intended.

Eshoo believes that the law should apply to all video program distributors – broadcast, cable, satellite and any others. She was reacting to comments from the American Cable Association seeking protection from CALM.
ACA’s Matt Polka said, “”ACA believes the law requires cable operators to exercise control over the volume level of commercials that they insert on their own or with the assistance of third parties.  But the law does not impose as broad a mandate regarding commercials embedded in upstream cable and broadcast programming that is merely passed through to subscribers by local operators.”

ACA, which has support from other MVPD organizations, believes that the intent of the CALM Act is simply to prevent consumers from having to dive for their remote to tone down loud commercials, and if the creators of the programs are doing that, there is no need for MVPDs to do anything more than make sure that their own commercial insertions obey the law.

Eshoo wrote to the FCC to disagree, according to Hillicon Valley, arguing that all program delivery platforms have an obligation to protect viewers and noting that the Act provides ample time to come into compliance.
Polka, however, says that putting such a requirement on a small cable operator doesn’t make sense technically and that necessary equipment is priced out of reach of many small operators.

RBR-TVBR observation: We have to agree with ACA on this one. Why do something at the outlet if it’s already being done at the source? This is particularly true if some observers are correct in pointing out that CALM may have little noticeable impact.

Here’s the argument: Commercials are limited to the decibel level in programming, right? That means they can go up to the level of a pitched battle, say the Normandy Invasion. However, most TV programming is delivered at the conversational decibel level, so a Normandy-level ad aired during a break in a Sunday morning talk show will still have a jarring effect.