Answer Man: TV stations avoid CALM Act noise reguations

December 30, 2018

Dear Answer Man: My wife and I, who have no hearing problems, are tired of holding our TV remote in our hands so that we can mute the sound during commercials on local newscasts. I’ve used a decibel meter on a local newscast two times now and their volume goes up 65 percent during commercials. Isn’t there a law against that? — G.F.

Dear G.F.: Yes, there is a law (the CALM Act) against that, but there are two problems with said law: It’s rarely enforced, and TV stations have learned how to fudge the regulations.

Straight from the FCC website comes this: “TV stations are prohibited from boosting the average volume of commercials to levels beyond the programs they accompany.”

That little word ‘average’ is the escape valve for TV stations. As long as the louder moments in a commercial are averaged out by quieter moments, there is no violation — especially if that average generally equates to the volume of the newscast or sitcom you’re watching. It doesn’t take an Answer Man-level genius to think up how that can be achieved.

The FCC proposes two options:

• File a complaint at https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov. “The FCC does not monitor programming for loud commercials,” it states. “We rely on people like you.”


• Change the settings on your television set or home theater to stabilize overall loudness. “These functions,” the FCC assures us, “usually need to be activated through the equipment’s ‘Set Up/Audio’ menu.” For that, I’d have to call over my 10-year-old nephew.

Of course, you could always get your news from the newspaper. I read it every day, and look how smart it made me!

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