CALM Act kicking in soon for TV spots


Beginning Thursday, TV stations and cable providers are required to keep the volume of commercials at a level consistent with programming.

The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, or CALM, was passed in the House and Senate more than a year ago, but providers were given a grace period to update their equipment. Some smaller or cash-strapped stations were allowed to petition for extensions.

“Loud television commercials that make consumers run for the mute button or change the channel altogether will be a thing of the past,” said Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-CA, who sponsored the initial bill in the House. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, was a co-sponsor.

Eshoo told the Wall Street Journal that legislation to mitigate the volume of commercials on TV was among the most popular pieces of legislation she has sponsored in her 18 years in Congress.

Television stations will be responsible for monitoring the volume of national network and syndicated spots, as well as local ads. Cable operators also are responsible for monitoring the volume of local and national spots.

One of the requirements of CALM is to be able to log audio levels to prove compliance. As this requirement did not exist previously, most stations were required to purchase additional equipment to comply with that aspect of the rules.

The cost is estimated in the thousands of dollars per station.

CALM gives stations and providers a bit of leeway in handling complaints. According to the new standards, one phone call or email isn’t enough to warrant an investigation, although patterns of them will demand review.

Failure to meet these new modulation standards could result in fines.

As a video provider, Comcast must comply with the changes. Comcast Spotlight, that produces local ad inserts. The company, spokesman Bob Grove, told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “has worked diligently over the past few years to ensure that all of the advertisements that are inserted into Comcast programming are compliant with industry standards.

RBR-TVBR observation: It does sort of force a new creative thinking, especially with local car dealers and retailers. Many of these clients believe louder commercials mean stronger response from viewers. Indeed, it gets their attention at least. If the same creative doesn’t bring as many folks into the showroom, of course, we’ll likely see ads that will flash strobe, enough to light up a few rooms of the house!