FCC to take another swing at loud commercials

At this point in my life, my expectations for government are low. And so, when the FCC announces they have a plan, I listen. When they say they will try to take action against absurdly loud commercials, I wonder. The executive branch may not be able to solve the pressing problems of our day, but this one seems vaguely within reach.

It’s not the first time

Around the time I took over The Solid Signal Blog in 2012, the FCC started enforcing the CALM Act, which had been enacted in late 2010 by Congress. It was one of those bills which enjoyed broad bipartisan support, because unlike those other much less important things that Congress is supposed to be legislating, it dealt with the scourge of loud commercials. Hey, one step at a time, I suppose.

The CALM act sought to fine broadcasters who weren’t able to control overly loud commercials. It suffered immediately from one big problem: Everyone knows what a loud commercial sounds like, but it’s extremely difficult to teach a computer what one is. People’s perception of what makes something unduly loud aren’t really consistent. Is it one or two really loud words, or a baseline loudness level that’s above what the TV show around it has? Should a commercial be penalized if it’s of average loudness but the show itself tends to be quiet? What if the show was just at a pensive and quiet moment?

Such problems have dogged the FCC in its enforcement of the CALM act for nearly a decade. And they’re tired of it. They’re starting over, and they need your help. They want to hear about issues with loud commercials in over-the-air programming as well as pay-TV programming. Apparently they’re not quite “there yet” when it comes to advertisements over streaming.

Make your voice heard (not too loudly)

You can fill out this form if you want to add a comment to the FCC’s filings. You will need to reference MB Docket No. 11-93, that’s the answer to the first question. From there you can put in any information you choose to, as long as it’s generally helpful. Comments are open until June 3, 2021.

Hope for the best

The FCC has not always had the best record when it comes to comments, at least not in the last decade. The commission has, at various times, suffered under the weight of accusations. People have accused them of hiding comments, and of stopping comments from being filed when they don’t support their position. The agency claims that sometimes, their servers are too weak to handle demand.

Sadly they do have to own up to their past failures, but I personally do not believe they should be shackled by them. I’m willing to give them a chance. If they can deal with the scourge of loud commercials, maybe there’s a chance they could actually take on something a bit more controversial and more important to the world. After all, they have a spiffy new logo, a new acting chair, and maybe just maybe they have a chance of making some real change in the next several years now that the world isn’t focused on their choice of gigantic chocolate-themed coffee cups.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.