Washington

Senate Passes CALM Act, But House Re-Vote Needed

Bill would regularize volume of broadcast, cable commercials 9/30/2010 10:30:00 AM Eastern

The CALM Act, which regularizes the volume of
cable and broadcast commercials, passed the Senate Wednesday.

It had already passed in the House, but there were
some changes that require a re-vote in the House before it becomes law. That
won't be until November, since the House adjourned Wednesday night so legislators
could try to get re-elected.

The CALM (Commercial Advertisement Loudness
Mitigation) Act

officially adopts the Advanced Television Systems Committee's recommended
practices for variations in commercial volume in relation to the programs
around them.

In other words, viewers will not have to ride gain
on the boosted volume of some commercials coming in and out of shows. The bill
directs the FCC to regulate commercial volume per the ATSC
recommendations adopted last November. It gives cable operators and
broadcasters a year from the law's adoption to comply.

The Senate version has a few slight tweaks. One
clarifies that the standards will be an FCC "mandate," not simply an
incorporation of the ATSC guidelines. Another extends that mandate to any
"successor" standard approved by ATSC. Any change in a bill requires
a re-vote in the other chamber.

A third change deals with the language of a waiver
(up to two years beyond the effective date) for small cable operators or
stations for whom adopting the regime, and the equipment necessary to
regularize the volume, would be a financial hardship.

The waiver language in both the House and Senate
versions is the same, but the Senate bill makes reference to it higher in the
bill as a parenthetical caveat in the language establishing the mandate, saying
that mandate is "subject to any waivers the commission may grant."

The Senate version was introduced by Sen. Sheldon
Whitehouse (D-R.I.), but the key driver of the bill was House sponsor Anna
Eshoo (D-Calif.).

"I'm thrilled that today we're just one step
away from sending this commonsense consumer bill to the President for his
signature," Eshoo said. "I'm grateful to Senators Whitehouse and
Rockefeller for shepherding the CALM Act through the Senate and I look forward,
both as a sponsor of the bill and as a consumer, to finally passing it into
law."

Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.)
was a strong backer and co-sponsor of the bill, as was Sen. Charles Schumer
(D-N.Y.). ""It's about time we turned down the volume on loud commercials
that try to startle TV watchers into paying attention, said Schumer. "This
is a simple step that will keep ads at the same decibel level as the programs
they are interrupting."

March