FCC Finally Doing Something About Loud Commercials Years After Most People Stopped Watching Commercials

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While TV audiences will find a million things to disagree about when it comes to the best TV show of all time, the most binge-worthy Netflix original series, and whether or not The Simpsons is still funny and relevant. But aside from those and many other debates, something most TV viewers are likeminded about is the all-around heinousness of commercials that are distinctly louder than the programs they're sponsoring. Even though such intentional annoyances are meant to be legally hindered, the FCC isn't exactly obsessive about it, but the government agency is now taking a new approach to cracking down on high-decibel ads. If only it would have happened before so many millions of people dropped linear TV for ad-free streaming services.

Here's how things are slowly heading down the path to change. The FCC Media Bureau is doing some introspective assessments in regards to the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act, which was put into action in December 2012. For what it's worth, the CALM Act came to life specifically to address the headache-inducing issue of TV ads airing at a louder volume than everything else, and processes were put in place to make sure things stayed on the level. Of course, the best laid plans of mice and men CAN BE YOURS FOR JUST FOUR EASY PAYMENTS OF $19.99!

To address the notion that the CALM Act hasn't been 100% successful at muffling Nutrisystem infomercials, car dealership ads and promotions for that monster truck rally coming on SUNDAY, SUNDAY, SUNDAY, the FCC is putting some of the onus on viewers themselves. The org created a form for TV viewers to fill out with complaints about problematic instances, such as commercials for anti-depressant medication dwarfing the volume of Young Sheldon's jokes. Technically, the new form is also a spot where media consumers can acknowledge instances where the CALM Act worked properly, but it's more likely to be overwhelmed by grievances from those who haven't yet cut ties with cable and satellite plans.

Here's how the FCC specifically worded their request (via TVLine):

[We seek] comment from consumers and industry on whether any updates are needed to the Commission’s rules implementing the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act. Further, we seek input from all stakeholders on whether the CALM Act rules are effectively serving their intended purpose, and on specific areas in which commenters believe updates are needed given improvements in technology or new industry practices.

It's perhaps telling that the FCC waited until 2021, in the middle of an ongoing streaming-happy pandemic, to make a formidable attempt at fixing up the CALM Act. While there are absolutely still millions and millions of households adhering to traditional TV means, each year chips away at chunks of that overall viewership, meaning there are feasibly fewer people who can complain about loud commercials. Perhaps not the timeliest way to sidestep a problem, in any case.

Not that linear TV networks are the only places where ads can sometimes appear to be projected through bullhorns. Many Hulu users over the years have complained and criticized the streaming company for ad blocks that are abundantly set at higher volumes than everything else. And with more high-profile platforms utilizing ad-based subscription plans, the problem could seemingly get worse if the FCC doesn't use this opportunity to nip it all in the bud. Maybe for next year's Super Bowl, the big-budget ads will follow a "whispering" trend.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.