Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill seldom see common ground these days, but just about everyone is supporting an effort by U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, to turn down the volume on those annoyingly loud television commercials.
The effort, which both the Senate and the House of Representatives overwhelmingly backed in late 2010, hit another milestone Tuesday (Dec. 13) when the Federal Communications Commission approved the final plans for implementing the CALM (Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation) Act. Authored by Eshoo, the law bars the volume on commercials to exceed the volume of regular programming.
Eshoo said she became aware of the problem of loud advertising the same way people across the country became aware of it -- while watching television.
"There was extraordinary loud advertising that came one and when I complained about it, my brother-in-law said, 'You're in the Congress. Why don't you do something about it?'"
Eshoo quickly learned that she wasn't alone in thinking the commercials are too loud.
"To my surprise what I found was that this was the top complaint of consumers across the country for the FCC for decades and no one paid any attention to it," Eshoo said.
Lawmakers shared the frustration of the masses. The Senate unanimously passed Eshoo's bill in September. It easily cleared the House in December 2010 and was signed into law by President Barack Obama later that month.
The CALM Act mandates that advertising volume not exceed the highest decibel level of regular programming. The act applies to television broadcast stations, cable operators and other distributors of multi-channel video programming. It requires the various broadcasters to comply with the law within a year.
Eshoo said in her conversations with stakeholders she was informed that technology makes it fairly easy for broadcasters to meet the CALM Act's requirements. Smaller stations that may have a hard time complying can seek a waiver from the FCC.
Eshoo, who is concluding her second decade in the U.S. Congress, said she has never written a bill that has been so popular and that has struck such a chord with so many consumers. Since the bill was introduced, she said, people have been stopping her at gas stations, restaurants and shops to express their support for the bill.
"They all tell me that same story about how maddening it is to be practically blasted out of your own home with the noise from the advertising," Eshoo said.