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FCC regulations for loud commercials go into effect today, Dec. 13

The AFLAC duck may not be so loud anymore thanks to new FCC regulations.

The AFLAC duck may not be so loud anymore thanks to new FCC regulations.

Here’s a modifed version of what I wrote last year on this topic:

You know how some commercials are irritatingly louder than the program you’ve been watching?

Effective today, that should be a thing of the past.

Rules that require broadcasters to keep commercials at comparable volume to programming sailed through the Federal Communications Commission a year ago 4-0.

While TV commercials are a necessary evil — helping to pay for the programming people receive on most networks — many viewers find loud commercials a major annoyance.

“This is an issue that people care about, that consumers care about,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said before the vote to Bloomberg News. “We have received thousands of complaints about TV commercials that come on much louder than the programming around it.”

Broadcasters are bracing themselves to find out what their potential liabilities are.

The Congressional Budget Office estimated this will cost each cable operator and TV station up to $20,000 in special equipment to comply with the order.

Complaints about ear-piercing commercials have been common for decades but escalated after broadcasters were required to switch from analog to digital in 2009, said David Unsworth, senior vice president of satellite and technical operations for DG, an Dallas-based company that delivers ads from agencies to broadcasters. (The company’s primary data center is in Roswell.)

“In the analog world, too much loudness caused distortion,” Unsworth said.”But with digital, you can get louder without that problem.”

Advertisers, especially in this age of DVRs, want their commercials to be noticed. “There’s definitely a loudness war,” Unsworth said. “Everybody wants to be louder than the guy next to them.”.

For Chamblee IT executive Rhonda Gregson, after her kids go to sleep, “if I am not right on top of the remote, the volume of the commercials (not the show) sometimes wakes them up,” she wrote on the AJC Radio and TV Facebook page. “This is a big pet peeve of mine!

Chris Roland, a Conyers project engineer, normally isn’t a fan of government regulation but can accept this one. He has a six-year-old daughter and is especially aware of the volume differential on the Disney Channel.

“I notice it a lot more if it’s kid oriented,” Roland said. “Maybe it’s to get their attention.” But even with programing targeting adults, “it’s almost like a smack in my face. I’m sitting here minding my own business, then my TV gets so loud. It’s ridiculous!”

But for people who prefer to watch television programs online, you’re out of luck: on-line streaming services such as Hulu, which often require people to watch ads, are not affected by the regulation.

36 comments Add your comment

Highlander

December 13th, 2012
7:30 am

It will be interesting to see how (or whether) this is actually enforced and, if so, what type of penalties are incurred.

And $20,000 for “special equipment” sounds like a gross exaggeration. I have an audio program that automatically sets a volume level parameter when ripping CD’s or converting WAV to MP3 and visa versa. It’s useful especially when making a compilation CD from different sources.

And it’s a FREEWARE program!!!

snottrocket

December 13th, 2012
10:18 am

how long before Obama gets blamed for this? I give it half a day.

Ivan Cohen

December 13th, 2012
10:27 am

Terrific! It was really getting old when I always had to adjust my volume on the television due to these loud commercials. Who in blazes told the advertising department this was an effective marketing strategy?

Yes

December 13th, 2012
10:29 am

Agree with Gregson and Roland – you have to be right on the remote after bed time and Disney has to be the worst offender.

Tom

December 13th, 2012
10:31 am

Wow. 12 days until Christmas and B98.5 has ‘ramped up’ the Christmas songs to the point where they’re playing one every 4th or 5th song.

You know how there are special masses associated with the Christmas season?

Well, I have one for the new PD at 98.5…it’s the “duh” mass.

PTC DAWG

December 13th, 2012
10:42 am

I bet this will work as good as the “DO NOT CALL” list.

PTC DAWG

December 13th, 2012
10:44 am

Let me add that you are free to turn the channel on your radio. I appreciate a little Christmas music myself. The older the better.

Wayne stuck in AL

December 13th, 2012
11:11 am

RODNEY:
The problem is far more noticeable when a cable network throws it to the cable operator for the mandated twice-an-hour commercial break.

Ed Honeycutt

December 13th, 2012
12:13 pm

Why are radio commercials not included in the new FCC regulations?

A.B. Normal

December 13th, 2012
1:30 pm

This will be enforced about as well as the texting-while-driving laws are around here.

BILLY MAYS HERE

December 13th, 2012
1:33 pm

JOB KILLING REGULATION

tom

December 13th, 2012
1:37 pm

Ad commercials would get me to pay attention if they normalize the sound. Currently, I hit mute every time a commercial comes on. It is a pain.

Roekest

December 13th, 2012
1:38 pm

I don’t see how this is a “job killing regulation”. As an editor, I can tell you it’s as easy as lowering your master volume a few dBs before pushing out the final copy. Finally! The gov’t does something useful! (next to the military, interstates, and forcing me to pay my “fair share”).

Sad Sack

December 13th, 2012
1:52 pm

I skip the commercials anyway.

Bhorsoft

December 13th, 2012
2:02 pm

That’s part why I seldom watch live TV anymore. Anything I’m interested in and then I can skip the commercials entirely.

And what’s this about 2 commercial breaks every hour? Seems like there are 3 minutes of commercials for every ten minutes of programming. My fast forward finger gets tired!

PTC DAWG

December 13th, 2012
2:04 pm

A 30 second skip button is your friend…

Chris

December 13th, 2012
2:09 pm

@Highlander: Broadcast equipment is extremely expensive… if you’re a broadcaster, you can’t depend on a piece of freeware to be in the path of your signal, you need redundancy and dependability. You also need to be able to defend yourself against claims that you violated the CALM act, so you’ve got to keep recordings of the signal you put to air through the statue of limitations. $20,000 is a gross under-estimation of the true cost of this.

BILLY MAYS HERE

December 13th, 2012
2:17 pm

Good I hope it costs them even more money; that’s what TV stations get for being complicit.

JusticeinSuwanee

December 13th, 2012
2:18 pm

Finally, and believe me, I will report offenders. Now, if we could just get rid of the silent “commercials” for other shows on the network that are displayed over what you are watching – some of them take up almost half the screen! – on some of the channels – Lifetime and Bravo are big offenders here. Sometimes when there are subtitles being used because of a different language being spoken at that moment or someone hard to understand, you can’t read them because of these “commercials.” It’s annoying.

MB

December 13th, 2012
2:24 pm

Can someone regulate PROGRESSIVE, GEICO, AFLAC commercials.

Oh My aching fingers

December 13th, 2012
2:50 pm

This is VERY expensive process and a HUGE pain in the butt. The audio isn’t turned down it’s analyzed by time consuming programs and equipment. No one is losing jobs,more time is spend on producing the programming and they ARE being told in Hollywood to follow the guidelines of the CALM act.
YOU are going to need the proper equipment at home to measure the audio. Just because you got the Kenwood TXZ-9000 Mega Blaster equalizationator for Christmas will not qualify you as and expert cause the experts are still trying to get this straight and the experts have been working on this for a LONG TIME prior to today.
Trust me, viewers complained about this for a long time and they are getting what they want and believe it or not,it WILL work. Nobody is going to get fined tomorrow for this or ever for that matter. Braodcasters are taking it seriously and you will notice it. The point is, you aren’t suppose to notice as you watch the “Storage Wars” Marathon for the 50th time!

BILLY MAYS HERE

December 13th, 2012
2:53 pm

An easy way to get rid of all commercials is to cancel your cable TV

Call It Like It Is

December 13th, 2012
3:04 pm

Now we just need them to get their symbols off the TV and quit running banner ads for the next show coming up at the bottom of the screen.

Mamie

December 13th, 2012
3:07 pm

Time: 12:01 pm Thurs. 12/13/12 have not noticed any difference…zip 89103 LV NV…
If the FCC meant the loudest part of a program…we are in trouble…war flics…NASCAR races…womans screams in SiFi or horror programs….teenybopper reality shows (13-30 years old)…

Billy

December 13th, 2012
3:08 pm

Commercials are an irritation, but my pet peave is when you change from channel to channel and the volume varies. Why can’t they set a volume level for everything, not just commercials vs programming?
I’m against most gov’t regulation, but since the cable/satellite companies abuse this practice, they have to be made to change it. It’s hard for them to resist the advertisers who badger them to raise volume levels on commercials.
LOL, the funny thing is, I mute the TV whenever commercials are on; the advertisers have this idea that a customer will notice an irritating or loud commercial more than the next one. The ones I notice and listen to are entertaining and funny, like Flo on the Progressive commercials…

BILLY MAYS HERE

December 13th, 2012
3:12 pm

Billy

December 13th, 2012
3:08 pm

I’m against most gov’t regulation,

Then don’t complain. I’m sure the glorious free market will work out a solution.

Chode McBlob

December 13th, 2012
3:14 pm

I just use the mute button. And FF for recorded shows.

Ben

December 13th, 2012
3:15 pm

First they let one company buy hundreds of stations and set up a cookie cutter template for programming that totally ignores any local interest, then they’re told to turn down the commercials? Like regulating which brand of matches arsonists must use.

911

December 13th, 2012
3:16 pm

I can turn the FCC idiots down or off and not be distressed by TV commercials, but I’m often helpless to do anything to tone down the OBAMAidtiots whose blaring boom-boom radios pollute the airwaves.

The objective of radio and tv is make money with advertising not to entertain or inform you. That went out decades ago. Former FCC chairman Newton Minow observed corrrectly when he said TV is a vast wasteland. That was more than sixty years ago. Give it up.

Keyshia

December 13th, 2012
3:29 pm

This rule was long overdue. The government finally got something right.

Next: revisit the federal “do not call” list that has ceased to prevent telemarketing calls.

BILLY MAYS HERE

December 13th, 2012
3:45 pm

911

December 13th, 2012
3:16 pm

but I’m often helpless to do anything to tone down the OBAMAidtiots whose blaring boom-boom radios pollute the airwaves.

white victim complex found

Baby

December 13th, 2012
4:43 pm

Yeah, what’s up with 98.5 killing the Xmas music this year?

Highlander

December 13th, 2012
5:34 pm

“Broadcast equipment is extremely expensive…” – Chris, 2:09pm

Yes, but the software that is already available isn’t necessarily! And as Rodney points out, they’ve had a year (!) to get their shyte together.

And the real answer for the networks is to simply require the advertisers to adhere to a volume parameter on all commercials submitted for airing! If an advertiser knows in advance that their ad can’t surpass a certain decibel level or it won’t be broadcast, they’ll submit commercials that fall in line.

Which brings up a question. Does the refulation give the FCC the power to fine the ADVERTISERS as well? That would go a long way in putting an end to the problem. Hit them at their bottom line!

Highlander

December 13th, 2012
5:36 pm

Make that “regulation.” (last paragraph) …But y’all knew that!

John A Suressi Sr

December 14th, 2012
11:33 am

Please lower the sound on thr tv and all commercials, Thy are to loud

BlondAlto

December 15th, 2012
4:05 pm

Very informative (as always!). I thought there was also a rule about the number of minutes, per half-hour slot, that could be allocated to comercials. I think it used to be eight minutes, and I have long believed that some networks violate that rule! It’s evident when, for example, TVLand’s shows go longer and longer and it makes it challenging to DVR them! Example – Friends (episode we are taping this weekend, as THREE DVDs of it were all bad) is on @ 3:03 and finishes at 3:39. And if you notice listings, as the night goes on, the shows go later and later. I will say this, though. They are more honest about times. They used to simply say 3-3:30, 4-30 etc. and then if you taped something, it would be up to 15 minutes off! Rambling now LOL but it’s annoying when you are trying to DVR something. Thankful we have most of our shows on DVD/Blueray!