FCC welcomes CALM Act, says good-bye to Michael Copps


The CALM Act, which became a law almost exactly one year ago on 12/15/10, was taken to the next level by a unanimous vote of the FCC commissioners at its December Open Meeting. The only other order of business was an often emotional acknowledgement of the 10-year FCC career of the retiring Michael Copps, who was attending his last Open Meeting as a Commissioner.

The CALM Act was one of the least controversial acts of Congress during the 2010 legislative season. It passed without resort to role call and had no problem acquiring the necessary autograph from President Obama. Media Bureau Chief William Lake said that one of the only impediments to doing something about loud commercials years ago was the technical limitations of the analog broadcast model. The advent of digital transmission is what made the Act practical.

The only hint of disappointment came from Republican Commissioner Robert McDowell, who suggested that perhaps some of the elements in the FCC plan strayed a notch or two away from the intent of Congress; but he said that for the most part he supported the measure. He certainly voted for it.

Copps said that the measure was a pure example of the FCC working in the public interest; Mignon Clyburn actually borrowed a quote from McDowell to indicate here support, saying, ‘As a commissioner, I don’t tell Congress what to do; Congress tells me what to do.” And Chairman Julius Genachowski revealed that he was responding not only to the public at large but also to a very particular constituency: “The consumer I listen to, my wife, has for years wondered when we are going to do something about this.”

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), who shepherded the bill to enactment, commented, “I’m proud to have led the charge to pass the CALM Act, which will give consumers the relief they’ve clamored for. TV stations now have the responsibility to turn down the volume on excessively loud commercials, and it’s about time. The law I wrote is simple – the volume of television commercials cannot be louder than regular programming. Households across the country will soon get the relief they deserve from the annoyance of blaringly loud television commercials.”

NAB approved of the FCC’s approach. EVP Dennis Wharton said, “We think the FCC struck the right balance in implementing the CALM Act and look forward to working with them going forward.”

The FCC approach gives stations and MVPDs time to implement necessary technology, and takes into account the financial challenges of compliance, placing relaxed responsibility on smaller operations.

The meeting ended with farewells to Michael Copps, whose last day at the FCC will be 1/1/12, unless his replacement, Jessica Rosenworcel, is sworn in earlier. Her nomination, along with that of Ajit Pai, is currently being held up by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA), and Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) is said to be working hard to get the hold removed.