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Industry Pledges To Keep CALM - Broadcasting & Cable

Industry Pledges To Keep CALM

Association heads "trumpet" willingness to work with government on commercial loudness mitigation
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The heads of major broadcast and cable trade
associations Thursday pledged to work with the FCC and Congress as the CALM (Commercial
Advertisement Loudness Mitigation) Act takes effect Thursday.

That
came at an event on Capitol Hill Thursday marking the law's launch and hosted
by Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R,I,) who helped push
through the legislation. It was billed as an opportunity for them to
"trumpet" the new law, though that probably should have been a muted trumpet,
since the legislation requires cable operators and TV stations to monitor and
moderate the volume of commercials vis-à-vis the programming that surrounds
them so ads are not annoyingly louder than surrounding programming.

"Earsplitting
television ads have jolted and annoyed viewers for decades," said Eshoo. "With
this new law, loud TV commercials that make consumers run for the mute button
or change the channel altogether will be a thing of the past."

"Broadcasters
have taken the lead in addressing the complex technical challenges associated
with this issue," said National Association of Broadcasters president Gordon
Smith at the event, according to Eshoo's office. "NAB is pleased to work
with Congresswoman Eshoo, Senator Whitehouse and the FCC as the CALM Act is
implemented."  National Cable & Telecommunications Association
President Michael Powell called it sensible legislation that will "improve
the consumer TV experience." He also pledged to work with the FCC and
other stakeholder to keep commercial loudness in check.

Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), who introduced the Senate version of the CALM Act, weighed in as well.

"The rules adopted today by the FCC require commercials to have the same average volume as the programs they accompany," Wicker said in a statement. "This is a common sense approach to a problem that plagues individuals across the nation and will create a more enjoyable television experience. As a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, I am glad to see this legislation is now a reality."

The
Act essentially requires the FCC to mandate a commercial audio loudness digital
TV standard approved by the Advanced Television Systems Committee.

Under
the FCC's rules implementing the act, cable operators are responsible for the
volume of both national and local ads, as well as promos, while TV stations
will also be responsible for the national network and syndicated ads, as well
as promos and local ads, both on broadcast and on the signals they deliver to
cable operators. That means if a cable operator delivers a TV station ad that
violates the act, it is the broadcaster who is responsible.

But the final order includes some flexibility for operators and stations to
comply with their responsibility over the "embedded" ads they pass
along from program distributors up the chain. They will be considered in
compliance if they "install, utilize and maintain" the requisite
equipment and software, or they have a certification from the distributor of
the ad that it complies with the recommended ATSC standard that the FCC is
making mandatory.

Larger operators will be required to do annual spot-checking of commercials for
the first two years, after which that requirement sunsets. Smaller operators
and stations will not have to spot check, but stations and operators or all
sizes must test in response to a "pattern or trend" of complaints --
rather than, say, a single complaint -- involving their station or system.

Smaller operators will have the opportunity to seek hardship waivers and will
not be required to purchase equipment, though they will still be responsible
for any proven violations.

The
FCC has pledged to monitor those newly-muted ads

On
Dec. 13, consumers will be able to report commercials that seem louder than the
programming they accompany to the FCC, said a spokesman of the law's launch.
"We will have a new complaint form available for this purpose, which can
be accessed at http://esupport.fcc.gov/complaints.htm.

"If
consumers do not have online access or if they need assistance, they can call
the FCC's Consumer Call Center at 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322)
(voice) or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) (TTY)."

The
FCC will keep a tally to see who has been naughty, and who has been nice,
compliance wise. "The Commission will use the detailed information from
complaints to identify patterns or trends of noncompliance for a particular
station, pay TV provider or commercial," said the spokesman. 

While
technical issues rarely make the Today
show, Matt Lauer and company Thursday spent some airtime
talking about the law's
implementation
. "I have always thought it is weird that if you are an
advertiser and you want people to like you and your product, why would you do
something that is so annoying?" asked Lauer. Today took a viewer poll on what people did when ads were blasted
at them: 38% said they muted the TV, 32% said they changed channels, and 29%
said "commercials, what commercials, we DVR everything."

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