House passes bill to reduce volume of TV commercials

The House by voice vote Thursday passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) that would lower the volume of television commercials, sending it to President Obama's desk for his signature.

The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act would authorize the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the volume of advertisements to ensure they aren't noticeably louder than the programs they interrupt, a problem that has annoyed consumers for decades. The bill passed the Senate in September and has been endorsed by Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine.

“TV programs use a variety of sound levels to build dramatic effect. But advertisements have been neither subtle nor nuanced,” Eshoo said. “My bill reduces commercial volume, allowing them to only be as loud as the decibel level of regular programming. Consumers will no longer have to experience being blasted at. It’s a simple fix to a huge nuisance.”

The bill requires the FCC to develop regulations within one year that would comply with international standards for digital television while limiting the volume of TV ads. Broadcast stations, cable distributors and other video content providers who demonstrate the new rules would pose a hardship will be able to apply for a waiver to avoid the regulations.

“Most Americans experience the frustration of abrasively loud television commercials, with advertisers grabbing for our attention through this intrusive practice,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who sponsored the bill in the Senate. “While this is far from the biggest issue we face, it will mean one less daily annoyance in our lives."