Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Television Advertising Government United States Your Rights Online

House Passes TV Commercial Volume Bill 408

Posted by Soulskill
from the apply-directly-to-eardrum dept.
eldavojohn writes "About a year ago, legislation was introduced to control the volume of TV commercials. It passed the Senate in September and has now been passed in the House as well. This problem has dated back to the 1960s, but after the president signs the bill, broadcasters will be subject to regulations of the Advanced Television Systems Committee on what is 'too loud.' Of the last 25 quarterly reports from the FCC, this has been the number one consumer complaint in 21 of them. Within a year, you should start to notice a difference, with commercials no longer forcing you to turn down the TV volume during breaks in your regular programming."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

House Passes TV Commercial Volume Bill

Comments Filter:
  • Doh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by unity100 (970058) on Friday December 03, 2010 @11:48AM (#34431400) Homepage Journal
    its not only an american problem. you chance up on a video on youtube or something else around the net, and suddenly -kaboooom. your house is vibrating with some shitty american commercial. volume just ramps up like there's no tomorrow.

    that was an affliction for everyone. not only americans. ironic that not the free market, but REGULATION is what's fixing that crap.
    • by nschubach (922175)

      How exactly do you express the knowledge that you did not buy something because their commercials were too loud? Short of everyone who thinks that sending a company an email it's pretty hard for the "free market" to express concern over a broadcaster not volume normalizing their broadcast.

      • by nedlohs (1335013)

        By not watching television stations that show loud commercials. Stations that show loud commercials will thus have smaller audiences than those that do not and hence be more protifable.

        Or by not buying products advertised with loud commercials.

        The whole idea of the "invisible hand" is that you don't need to inform them of why you aren't buying their product. Just as the Hawk doesn't have to tell the well camuflaged rodents why it eats them less than the bright orange ones. They will "get the message" - via

        • by brainboyz (114458)

          And be willing to do without. That's the part that gets most people. They don't want the loud commercials, but they still want to watch Desperate Housewives or whatever the latest drivel is. So they deal with the loud commercials and complain to people that don't matter. Obviously, the show is worth it to them so loud commercials still get watched.

        • One flaw with the television "market" is that only 4000 homes out of 105 million are monitored.

          So if those 4000 homes don't express displeasure because of commercial volume, then it simply doesn't register, even if most people have already-quit the loud stations. Nielsen Ratings needs to come-up with a better system. Maybe increase from 4000 to 40,000 monitored homes, for better accuracy, instead of sticking with a system they developed in the 1960s.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by nizo (81281) *

          Commercials? Oh yeah, those pesky things they show on TV that I don't see anymore because I stream pretty much everything I watch these days off of Netflix :-P

        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          The whole idea of the "invisible hand" is that you don't need to inform them of why you aren't buying their product. Just as the Hawk doesn't have to tell the well camuflaged rodents why it eats them less than the bright orange ones. They will "get the message" - via the ones doing the "bad" thing going out of business/being eaten.

          Of course you need a free market to start with.

          And many 'generations'.. The camouflage did not evolve over night. Many rodents had to be born, and either be eaten or not for the

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Friday December 03, 2010 @11:55AM (#34431522) Journal

      ironic that not the free market, but REGULATION is what's fixing that crap.

      How is that ironic? The problem with commercials providing revenue to copyrighted material in a "free market" as you call it is completely not "free market." But without getting into pedantry about how television is one of the furthest things from a free market as possible, it makes complete sense since if you want to watch some video, you must watch the commercial. You want to watch The Office on NBC.com? Well, you have to sit through a particular commercial. You can't switch to another better, quieter, more appealing commercial. If commercials were a product then your 'free market' quip might have some meaning but when they're pretty much being shoved down your throat by the idea and design of marketing, your selection choice is instantly removed. Simply put, I can't watch whatever I want and request only commercials that appeal to me. If I did, I'd only be watching Adult Swim commercials if I ever saw any. Government regulation was the only way to combat this. Television commercials have always been approaching Geocities quality with flashing marquee tags, blinking tags, dancing jesus', flying toasters and music that cranks up to eleven and plays once the page loads.

      • If commercials were a product then your 'free market' quip might have some meaning but when they're pretty much being shoved down your throat by the idea and design of marketing, your selection choice is instantly removed. ... Government regulation was the only way to combat this.

        My approach was to switch to Netflix, no government regulation necessary. Seems to me that if anyone is still paying to watch tv with loud commercials, it's because it's worth it to them.

    • the free market did provide a solution to commercial volume. TiVO.
      • by horatio (127595)
        Before TiVo, there was the remote control with the mute button. My grandfather always muted the commercials, not because they were loud, but because they annoyed him. We don't need more government and more stupid regulations when we already have a solution.
        • by hedwards (940851)
          But it's not a very good solution. Besides, haven't you noticed that commercials just get more annoying when you do things like that? Just look at Flash ads, they weren't so bad in the beginning, but now that people ignore them they're going to increased lengths to get attention. The worst ones will randomly cover up content and try to clickjack you into going to their site.
        • by spidercoz (947220)
          That's not the point. The point is the problem shouldn't exist in the first place. It'd be nice if people just knew what they shouldn't do, or more to the fact, actually didn't do things they knew they shouldn't do, but people are ignorant bastards. So they need to be regulated.
        • by 1u3hr (530656)
          Before TiVo, there was the remote control with the mute button. My grandfather always muted the commercials, not because they were loud, but because they annoyed him. We don't need more government and more stupid regulations when we already have a solution.

          Right. You have to keep the remote in your hand, ready to click "mute" at a moment's notice. Then you have to keep WATCHING the fucking commercial so you know when it's finished and you can turn the audio back on again. You can't read a magazine, or go

    • by darjen (879890)

      Are you kidding? Government regulation is the reason we can't legally download any TV show we want at any time without commercials. The free market solved this problem a LONG time ago. But our Benevolent Overlords (not) decided to not allow it. You can take your regulation and shove it where the sun don't shine...

    • But is it the RIGHT SORT of regulation? Wouldn't it obviously be better to give each broadcaster a permit for a certain number of seconds of obnoxiously loud advertising per day, and then establish a market where these permits could be bought and sold?
    • by ebuck (585470)

      If it's such a free market, set up a TV station that doesn't play loud commercials. Oh wait, you can't because even the existence of TV stations require permission to broadcast which comes from the government. Free market my ass, every detail of what frequency range you can transmit in to how much power your station can output is regulated. You can't even legally say a few "choice" words on the air. You must comply with the emergency broadcast system. You will have to hire according to the current labo

  • by wjousts (1529427) on Friday December 03, 2010 @11:48AM (#34431404)
    ...that Billy Mays didn't have to live to see this day.
    • or Crazy Eddie [wikipedia.org]
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      Nice! I taught my daughter to say "Hey, there's the guy who died from taking too many drugs!" when he comes on in those tacky "flashback" commercials, with Billy in the background doing his shtick while his successor crams the killer product down my throat.

      Advertisers know no shame.

    • by dkleinsc (563838) on Friday December 03, 2010 @12:05PM (#34431668) Homepage

      BILLY MAYS HERE for TechKnob! Are you tired of hearing really loud commercials? Well, hear them no more with the patented deluxe Commercial Volume Reducer! Using advanced commercial detection technology, it automatically detects when a commercial is coming on, and reduces the volume 50% for you! Available for $19.95, call now!

  • I'm glad (Score:2, Insightful)

    by snookerhog (1835110)
    glad that this is the type of important stuff that is making it to Obama's desk. I hated loud commercials back when I still watched some TV, but did this really need and act of Congress to solve? sheeesh
    • by wjousts (1529427)

      From TFS:

      This problem has dated back to the 1960s...

      Did it really look like anybody else was going to solve this problem?

      • If its been nearly 50 years then it ain't that big of a problem. This is not only a waste of congressional time but now we will have to eat the cost of review and enforcement. Great. Especially as some TV's have automatic volume control which addresses this kind of 'problem'. Go buy one if you are that bothered by loud commercials and don't saddle the rest of the country with the costs to protect your delicate ear drums.
        • by ArcherB (796902)

          If its been nearly 50 years then it ain't that big of a problem.

          Back when TV's had one small speaker, no this was not that big of problem. Now, even my TV has two speakers, each that is multi-times more powerful than what my old TV had. And still, I don't even use those. Today, my TV is pushed digitally through my Dolby 5.1 receiver with 125 watts going to each of the speakers with another 100 watts for the independently power sub woofer. When the sound volume suddenly shoots shoots up 30%, you, and everyone else knows it. Sorry, but 700 watts of those stupid Kit-K

      • by Cylix (55374) *

        There were already regulations which limited volume.

        This is measure of relative change which is kinda odd to enforce.

        In analogue transmission you wanted to watch over driving the audio level because it can effect power output. There were also decibel levels which were too hot and could cause many issues and even some with the receiving set. In a digital world when you drive past 0 there is no overhead for such levels and most equipment simply limits (rather poorly). In all cases there were limiters in place

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tom (822)

      but did this really need and act of Congress to solve?

      Well, apparently, the "invisible hand" that magically fixes world hunger, world peace, climate change and all other troubles that ever ailed mankind has failed in this one.

      Hm, could be because you as the viewer aren't a participant in the market - the market exchange is between the TV station and the marketing company.

      • Re:I'm glad (Score:4, Funny)

        by halivar (535827) <bfelger.gmail@com> on Friday December 03, 2010 @12:13PM (#34431830) Homepage

        I'm sorry your remote control lacks a Mute button. The "invisible hand" must have passed your house when they were handing them out.

        • by spun (1352)

          I've got a remote control that works on every single TV out there. It's called congress. You know, if media companies didn't want to get themselves regulated, they could stop using our public airwaves and cable right-of-ways. Seeing as how they DO use these things, we have the moral and legal right to tell them to turn down the volume. Isn't it nice how contracts and negotiation work?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851)
      The answer is yes, the free market wasn't solving it and I'm not sure that the FCC has the power without being given it to regulate that.

      Additionally, right now you're not likely to see much useful legislation going through as the Republicans have vowed to pretty much shut down the Federal government in a bid to derail the Democrats ability to actually get anything done so that they can claim that the Democrats didn't fix any of the problems for the 2012 Presidential race.
    • what else is congress doing that IMPROVES OUR LIFE?

      name one thing they did in the last 10 years, even, that improved our lives.

      they stopped doing that. they make wars, they give themselves pay raises and they argue without solving ANY problems. congress is a cancer in america.

      the fact that somehow they managed to improve a small part of daily life just amazes me! wish they'd spend more time on little things that make life better instead of giving themselves pay hikes.

    • by greyline (1052440)
      Just be glad that Congress is doing anything at all right now.
    • I notice a lot of people talking about "The Free Market" and how it failed in this particular instance.

      I don't think you guys understand how this side of advertising works. In case you haven't seen the "Head On" Commercial, go to youtube and look it up right now.

      Now that you've watched one of many annoying commercials, ask yourself, why on Earth would anyone buy this product?

      The answer is simple, when you're looking at all the products on the shelf, your pick up the first one your mind recognises, and an an

  • comskippers rule (Score:4, Informative)

    by TheGratefulNet (143330) on Friday December 03, 2010 @11:52AM (#34431468)

    lots of comskip programs out there. I'm using a video editor called 'video redo' that does seamless cuts at the mpg mode and only re-encodes the cut/join part. ideal for saving edited tv shows.

    I have my mythtv capture system save the .mpg file, video redo edits it and it has its own comskip feature that locates and lets me tweak the 'red areas' where the commercials are. it has a 'plot mask' to black out most of the screen so you don't have to view the content while editing.

    life is good again ;) I have not seen a commercial since I started using this. shows are now 20 minutes shorter, too.

    this is nice for those who don't have pvr's of some sort, but the war has already forced most of us to TOTALLY eliminate ads.

    just like firefox and adblock/noscript make browsing more pleasant again, same with comskippers.

    one channel seems to put all its commercials in SD and the show, itself, is in HD. let me thank them so much for making it TRIVIAL to detect when commercials come on. danke again for being stupid, tv execs.

    • I heard some commercial skipping algorithm uses audio volume as a cue to detect start of commercial. Doesn't this ... "blessing" breaks that algorithm? If incompetence isn't a factor in this, I am incline to think that this is a plot by the broadcasters to break some of the commercial skipping algorithms...

  • My grandma had an even better solution: mute the TV during commercials.
    • by AntEater (16627)

      Even better is to turn the TV off entirely.

      I haven't had "TV" since the early 90s. Best thing I ever did with my time.

  • ...but it seems that even if the volume level didn't actually change, commercials were clearly 'pitched' higher, giving them a louder apparent volume?

    • by Sockatume (732728) on Friday December 03, 2010 @12:04PM (#34431644)

      Dynamic range compression? What we have (had?) in the UK was a decibel limit, so in some cases* they just lifted everything under the limit to increase loudness. Lots of hassle for that. The law seems to legally enforce ATSC guidelines for loudness on programming [atsc.org] when broadcasting ads, which on my cursory reading means that there's a strict loudness level and dynamic range they have to work to.

      *Notoriously, when Lost came over here they ran an extra ten minutes of ads per episode and made them ridiculously loud

    • by Nerdfest (867930)
      They do seem to compress them. It's not just commercial either. The 'tabloid' shows and others of that ilk seem to compress their entire shows, with every word pegged to maximum. As with music it's very tiring, even leaving the content out of it.
    • Start here [wikipedia.org] with VU Meters. It's a question of saturation. If you're listening comfortably to a conversation in a movie is recorded at (say) an average -5 Db, and then a commercial comes on with music recorded at 0 Db, the music seems like it's going to blow you out of the room, yet it's (technically) recorded at the "correct" level.
  • To honor the late, great, shouting huckster!
  • Movies too (Score:4, Informative)

    by SoundGuyNoise (864550) on Friday December 03, 2010 @11:55AM (#34431524) Homepage
    Can we make the same for movies as well? I'm fed up with turning up the volume to hear the dialogue, then getting blasted with the stock footage of an airplane landing.
    • You can put dynamic range compressors on your gear...As a Dolby engineer will tell you, an airplane or gunshot is much louder in real life than conversation, so the movies are accurately representing the sounds.
    • by hedwards (940851)
      If that's what you want there's been a solution to that for years. I think it's smart volume and it basically compresses the volume on the fly to do just that. The reason why we have this legislation rather than just integrating that into the TVs is that it sounds like crap and makes movies significantly less interesting to watch.
  • Let me be the first to say that I'm glad that our senators and representatives have passed this. With all the other issues this country has to solve, I'm glad to see our congressmen reach across the aisle and work together in a spirit of bipartisanship to solve major issues like this. It gives one a deep sense of optimism for the future of our country.

    • by rwv (1636355)
      I know you're kidding, but when nobody can agree on what to do about taxes, unemployment, and the economy-at-large, it's nice to see that at least everybody can join together against the advertising industry.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by hedwards (940851)
      You just broke my sarcasm detector.

      Bipartisanship won't happen as long as voters are rewarding the GoP for refusing to compromise and the press is hounding the Democrats to compromise even when they've been handed a mandate to govern. Compared with the Republicans being urged not to compromise even when the voters hand them a significant defeat at the ballot box.

      Given that the GoP is proudly asserting that they won't actually participate in any governing nor will they allow the Democrats to do so eith
      • by myth24601 (893486)

        This new law is a good example of something that is not a real problem getting solved by bold government action.

        Bipartisanship won't happen as long as voters are rewarding the GoP for refusing to compromise and the press is hounding the Democrats to compromise even when they've been handed a mandate to govern. Compared with the Republicans being urged not to compromise even when the voters hand them a significant defeat at the ballot box.

        What really happened is the Dems thought they had a mandate when they

      • >>>the press is hounding the Democrats to compromise even when they've been handed a mandate to govern

        They lost that mandate a month ago.

        As for the press: ABC, CBS, PBS, and MS-NBC are the most pro-democrat channels you could find. Their reporters cried on the air when the Democrats won 2008. I don't see how the Dems could have any more positive support from the press.

    • by nomadic (141991)
      So you think until major problems are "solved," nothing else should be done? Are you one of those people who think that if a city has 1,000 police officers, as long as the murder rate is above 0 every single one of those police officers should spend 100% of their time trying to prevent murders?
    • by N0Man74 (1620447)

      So congress should just stop worrying about any issues at all if they aren't the most important issues? By that argument, maybe should stop trying to improve employment rates and instead work on nothing but world peace. That's more important isn't it?

      I have mixed feelings on making this a law, but I can certainly understand it. I don't watch much TV anymore, but I recall when I spent some time visiting my mother where I dozed off watching a TV show. The next thing I know, I'm being startled awake by a c

      • by N0Man74 (1620447)

        I also would like to add... maybe they should have included internet video on this too... I'm beginning to see this phenomenon on Hulu now.

  • I didn't read TFB, but: How do they measure? As far as I'm concerned, it is not trivial, taking into account tricks put to use by tv stations to fool measurement. Where I live, similar law has been in effect. Loudness is measured by standarised means (ITU-R BS1770-1). And guess what - nothing changed, because no proper equipment has been passed to the regulators...
  • I just spent $2150 [musiciansfriend.com] for nothing...

  • by srussia (884021) on Friday December 03, 2010 @12:02PM (#34431614)
    According to the latest poll (How much TV do you watch in a week, on average? [slashdot.org]), we hardly watch any TV!
    • What you didn't account for was the number of slashdotters who missed the poll. They were watching T.V. so they didn't vote.
    • Considering 80% of my TV is delivered to me via eztv or btchat, I too have managed to avoid most forms of advertisement. This is actually one of the primary drivers for me downloading the TV show, even if it means seeing it a day late.

      Any of the TV that I do actually watch 'live' is still not really live, since I usually start recording it on DVR and tune in 20-30 minutes into the show and watch it in catchup, fast forwarding through the adds.

  • What are these "commercial" things that this is referring to? They sound horrible. Is that something from the 90's?
  • This has been so annoying, I am glad they finally fixed this issue.

    Of course this also means that when I fall asleep watching a TV show I will now sleep the entire night instead of being wakened up by the obnoxious commercial.

  • Ignoring whether or not you are in favor of this (I kind of like it myself)...

    The U.S. Congress does not have the right to regulate the audio volume of your television.
  • I can't say that I'm surprised at all of the snark and the sniping. Yeah, there are a million dozen things that our reps should be fixing. This isn't our nations biggest problem. It's not even in the top hundred thousand.

    That being said; this is a very small tidbit of proof that 'the system', for all its pitfalls and failings, still works. People complained about a problem (however minor), the free market decided not to fix it, so the government stepped in and played the angry parent and said "since you won

  • by Bobfrankly1 (1043848) on Friday December 03, 2010 @12:15PM (#34431874)
    Now whats going to wake me up when I fall asleep on the couch? An Infomercial?
  • I don't watch TV but when I do watch video online that has that kind of loud unskipable commercial I just mute it preemptively. (also applies to stuff like the TED start music)
    If it was a reasonable volume I might keep it on and just ignore it but this way they just lose me altogether, I don't get why they'd want to do that.

  • Market Failure? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by thepainguy (1436453) <thepainguy@gmail.com> on Friday December 03, 2010 @12:19PM (#34431932) Homepage
    Some people seem to be putting this off as an example of a market failure when in truth it's not.

    Many TVs have features that allow you to level out the sound from programming to commercials (kind of an old school ad blocker). That is how the market has seen fit to address this problem.

    Also, the market hasn't done more than than because this is more of a minor annoyance than a real problem (and yes, I do find it annoying, especially when I have a sleeping kid in my arms and they get woken up by the commercials). It's also not like the sound is getting louder and louder and louder over the years.

    Markets work, just not always in the way that people expect.
    • by Sockatume (732728)

      I'm looking for the part where you demonstrate that the problem has been solved. The market has provided an answer, and you view the problem as only a minor one anyway, but I don't see where it's been resolved. That's not to say it hasn't been, but it's the centre of your argument.

    • by Solandri (704621)

      Many TVs have features that allow you to level out the sound from programming to commercials (kind of an old school ad blocker). That is how the market has seen fit to address this problem.

      The market doesn't correct this "problem" because it's not a market problem. The viewer is not the customer; they are the product. They're not the ones directly paying for the TV shows so they get very little say in what gets broadcast. The advertisers are the ones paying - they are the customer. So the market tries

  • This makes me incredibly happy. I can't tell you how many times I've dozed off while watching TV only to be rudely awaken by some idiot commercial.

  • I work in the cable industry and administer a local ad insertion system. Periodically, I field calls from viewers complaining about the volume on ads.

    Viewers don't realize their ears are tricking them. While there are offenders out there, most ads volume levels don't peak any higher then the surrounding program. Advertisers just tend to compress their audio range near the peak.

    When you watch a TV program, you see 5-7 minutes with an audio ranging from crickets to explosions. When you watch a 30 second a

  • Maybe I just got used to obnoxious commercials, after listening to "HI! I'M TOM PADGAM!" car commercials in Oklahoma City, everything seems to be mild, but the biggest offenders now seem to be the TV shows that compress everything like it was a hip-hop CD. The commercials are now quieter than some of the programs.
  • I mean, I'm really no expert when it comes to TV broadcasts and video in general, but if commercials have a distinctive quality (i.e. louder sound), couldn't this quality be used to identify and avoid them? Like, cut them out when you're recording something? Or have your set allow you to change to another channel during the commercials and automatically switch you back when it's over?

  • I've been muting commercials for the past 20 years. I had no idea they were still too loud.

  • by wfolta (603698) on Friday December 03, 2010 @12:33PM (#34432186)

    One of the OP links summarizes the law thus:

    "The new law will require them all to comply with standards approved by the Advanced Television Systems Committee. Those standards have, up to this point, been characterized as mere 'recommended practices'; once the President signs the CALM Act, those standards will be The Law."

    That article then links to "ATSC Recommended Practice: Techniques for Establishing and Maintaining Audio Loudness for Digital Television", which is Document A/85:2009, 4 November 2009. Lots of observations and experiments, and not having the time to read through in detail yet, I'm not sure if it will fix the problem or if it will give ammunition to the FCC to rap knuckles when they get complaints.

    Still, the good news is that the politicians aren't making their own standards up, but rather elevating a document done by people who understand the topic.

Those who do things in a noble spirit of self-sacrifice are to be avoided at all costs. -- N. Alexander.

Working...