Editorial: Please Remain CALM


From the constant screeching of the bombastic cable news pundits to TBS's Chip Caray getting so excited he blew a huge call during last week's Twins-Tigers playoff game, lack of volume is never a problem in the television business.

In fact, it is often quite the opposite, and the concern is not just limited to programming. Which is why last week the House Communications Subcommittee approved a bill that would require the broadcast and cable industry, which includes satellite and other multichannel video providers, to regularize the volume of advertisements and the programming surrounding them.

In an Oct. 8 voice vote, the committee passed the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act, backed by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), and referred it to the full Energy & Commerce Committee.

We love the idea of turning down the volume in general. But as is often the case with so many issues, we tend to wish it could have been solved without governmental intervention.

Eshoo said the bill's premise was simple: “To make the volume of commercials and programming uniform so that spikes in volume do not affect the consumer's ability to control sound.” Eshoo said that ad volume spikes had “endangered hearing for decades.”

Some might even say they also have endangered marriages, especially around baseball playoff time when Dad is trying to quietly watch the late game with the wife and kids asleep, only to have that first break in the action suddenly bring a commercial blaring through, leaving Pops fumbling to find the remote and keep everyone sleeping soundly. Not that we are speaking from experience.

As reported by B&C, the bill was modified from the original form to give the broadcast and cable industry more time to implement the technology and to make an industry-backed engineering standard the rule of the road.

The bill gives the FCC a year to adopt a commercial volume standard being produced by the Advanced Television Systems Committee, then gives the industry a year after that to purchase and install the necessary equipment.

The industry was hoping to head off legislation with a voluntary standard, and we were in agreement. But Eshoo wasn't. “I wish that we could trust everyone to voluntarily comply,” she said, “but the industry's track record has not been so great in this regard.”

This was not the ideal way of getting a new volume standard. But with television viewership and its ad model under siege, anything to keep viewers parked in front of sets—and not in the audiologist's waiting room—is worth listening to.