FCC Passes Rule Demanding Quieter Commercials

Spots Can't Be Louder Than Surrounding Programming

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The Federal Communications Commission passed rules designed to spare U.S. TV viewers loud commercials.

The regulations affecting TV broadcasters, cable and satellite companies cleared the commission today on a 4-0 vote at the agency's monthly meeting in Washington. Commercials can't be louder than surrounding programming under rules that take effect Dec. 13, 2012.

"This is an issue that people care about," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said before the vote. "We have received thousands of complaints about TV commercials that come on much louder than the programming around it."

The FCC acted at the behest of Congress, which last year passed the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, or CALM Act, requiring the agency to write rules by using a standard developed by TV-industry engineers.

Loud ads perennially rank as a top consumer complaint at the agency. In 25 quarterly reports on consumer complaints released by the FCC since 2002, 21 listed the loudness of TV commercials as a top complaint, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., said as he introduced the bill approved last year.

Equipment to control volume ranges from a few thousand dollars to about $20,000, according to the Congressional Budget Office. U.S. cable operators and TV stations will need to collectively spend at least "tens of millions" of dollars and probably less than a total of $141 million, the CBO estimated.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, a Washington-based trade group whose members include Comcast Corp., the nation's largest cable provider, had told the FCC that cable operators shouldn't be responsible for commercials inserted by the networks that supply programming.

--Bloomberg News --

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