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Are TV Commercials TOO LOUD?

September 28th, 2009 by Bob Bly

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D., CA) seems to think so.

According to an article in Parade (9/27/09, p. 6), Eshoo recently introduced the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Migitation Act (CALM) — I kid you not.

If CALM passes, the FCC would be required to set new limits requiring lower volume on TV commercials.

Consumer advocates support CALM, arguing that “Advertisers simply do not have a right to scream at consumers in their living rooms,” says Joel Kelsey of Consumers Union.

Advertisers and the FCC point out that if consumers want less volume on TV commercials, they can simply use their remotes to turn down the sound.

Where do you stand on this fairly trivial but very controversial issue?

Should advertisers be forced by law to make TV commercials quieter?

Or can we leave it to consumers to combat loud TV commercials with the VOLUME control on their remotes?

What say you?


This entry was posted on Monday, September 28th, 2009 at 6:38 pm and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

73 responses about “Are TV Commercials TOO LOUD?”

  1. Bill Perry said:

    I am with the spirit of the CALM act.

    Even when customers lower the volume, not all commercials use a standard volume level.

    I’m all for companies being able to advertise and generate sales and revenue, but it’s annoying as hell when I’m watching a TV show and the commercials end up being 2-3 times louder than the show.

    I don’t even care so much about the absolute volume level advertisers use, I think they should be required to keep it standard. That way, for TV viewers with a “Smart Sound” enabled TV set can turn the volume down for the adverts and not be blasted out by some commercials because the volume levels aren’t standardized.

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  3. Chris Greaves said:

    Migitation ?

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  5. Susanna K. Hutcheson said:

    While I detest loud commercials (or loud anything) and especially commercials that have screaming announcers, I abhor unnecessary regulation into our lives or businesses. If there’s something on the television a viewer doesn’t like or doesn’t want to see, let him turn it down or off or on mute.

  6. Lou Wasser said:

    It’s the same old same old in the American political game played out in what you quite rightly call a “trivial issue.”

    Liberals will counsel that we pass the CALM act. Conservatives will advise that we turn down the volume ourselves.

  7. Shirley George Frazier said:

    I read about this some time ago, which let me know that I was not crazy in thinking that the sound automatically increased during commercials.

    This situation doesn’t matter to me. In fact, it encourages me to turn off the tube and get into a book.

  8. John Bickerton said:

    There is a process in audio production called “brickwall” limiting which essentially compresses the natural loud/soft peaks and valleys – the dynamic range – of the audio and pushes it up to it’s extreme- it’s like audio on steroids.

    This is how a commercial can appear to sound louder even though you never turned up the volume. A lot of modern records are mastered this way too. It becomes mind-numbing if listened to at length.

  9. Stephan F- said:

    What I don’t get is that when they encourage me pick up the remote to adjust the volume they don’t seem to realize that I now also have easy access to the channel control. I as often jump away from the commercial as drop the volume.
    At home it is an annoyance but in the car it is more dangerous to have to adjust the volume.
    And we have to do it twice once when the commercials start and again when the real show returns.
    We wouldn’t need a law if they would just police themselves. Since they can’t seem to, we need someone to do it for them. Now is a good time for the advertisers to become heros by announcing they are not going to play loudness wars anymore.

  10. Kelja said:

    Our representatives at work again. So much to do, so little time – must find an area of life that needs regulation.

    I’m want a law to mute the TV anytime a politician speaks!

  11. Jodi Kaplan said:

    I use the mute button (it’s my favorite; the letters have worn off). I’m not a conservative, but really, a law like that is silly.

    However, having just survived a brutal primary season here in NY, I would be in favor of an opt-out from political robo-calls list (should any politician be brave enough to propose one).

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  13. Ken Norkin - Freelance Copywriter said:

    “This is how a commercial can appear to sound louder even though you never turned up the volume.”

    Seeing as hearing is perception, what appears to sound louder IS louder.

    Even if limiting and compression have crammed more audio into commercials so that they come out louder at any listening level, broadcasters have the technical ability on their end to make it so everything they broadcast comes out at the same perceived level of loudness.

    Advertisers are correct that I can turn the volume down during their commercials. But why should I have to? And by the time I can react and turn it down, I’ve already been subjected to a few seconds of their loudness. Is putting up with this nuisance the price I have to pay for free entertainment?

    I prefer requiring all sound to be broadcast at an equal level of loudness that the viewer/listener has decided is effective and comfortable. People who really want to hear the commercials louder than the programs can turn them up.

    Why don’t I think that’s going to happen too often?

  14. Kurt said:

    Advertising should regulate themselves.

    There is no benefit to the anoying volume change when a commercial comes on. Stephan F was correct above by forcing the viewer to reach for the remote they are loosing a % of viewers who just change the channel rather than adjusting the volume.

    I am all for common sense but do not feel Goverment regulation and a larger government to monitor those regulations is the way to go. In the end we will have higher taxes to pay for something that the advertisers should have done because it makes sense for them in the first place.

  15. Marlene said:

    At least in this household, it’s in advertisers’ best interest to lower the volume.

    I’m completely in the habit of hitting mute as soon as the commercial break begins, which I wouldn’t do if the volume increase wasn’t so dramatic.

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  19. Jon P said:

    I believe the volume of commercials was once regulated in the past. When Government agencies stopped enforcing any of their own rules over the past 8 years or so, many of the old regulations seem to have been discarded. Why should the volume level of a commercial be permitted to be any louder than the program which it interrupts? At one time we spoke about the airwaves as being publicly owned. That sentiment also seems to have gone by the wayside.

  20. Michael at SRS Labs said:

    I hate loud commercials as much as the next person. SRS Labs has a solution that levels out your volume so that you never have to be blasted off your couch again. Its called SRS TruVolume, visit to learn more. Even if some sort of regulation went in to play, you will still have commercials that blast you away because of the way they are mixed. By cutting out background noise and compressing the dynamic range of the audio, advertisers can still get around the regulation and project their announcers voice loudly. SRS TruVolume fixes this regardless of how the commercials are recorded. If you visit the link above, there you can enter to win 1 of 3 brand new Samsung flat screen tvs that feature this great new volume leveling solution.


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  22. ken said:

    I support it and would give money to its cause.

    I am so sick and tired of the loud commercials, I had to turn the tv down to a level I couldnt even hear the star wars trilogy last night, and some commercials, amazingly, even with the low volume, were so loud you could hear them outside…namely the non erection ones, the people and coming attractions on spiketv. I will never ever ever buy a product from ANYONE who has loud commercials, EVER. They should all be fined until they go out of business, including the sometimes two to three minute long sleep aid commercials and other medicinal commercials. I dont care if they medicine saves peoples lives or not, they can all go to hell.

  23. Sara said:

    “If you don’t like the volume lower or mute it.” How simple this sounds when written by an able-bodied person yet. Sadly, due to a drunk driver I am fully crippled with hands that don’t always work fast enough so I fumble a lot. If the remote control drops it takes me even longer to be able to move to reach it. Also, when my migraines are low-grade I can sometimes use the TV as a way to focus my mind onto something other than the pain. That is until commercials come on with deliberately increased volumes. An important message for advertisers is that I, and many others I know, do not by any product from a company that feels the need to scream in our face. Speak too loud and you lose people’s attention, speak softly and they need to pay attention to hear what you have to say. With all the noise and fast-paced action I’m often left wondering what actually was being advertised. Considering the millions a company pays for a few seconds of air time perhaps they will one day realize it is money wasted by the power of the mighty mute button. It amazes me the hundreds of thousands of dollars advertising people are paid to come up with these dismal failures. So wake up corporate America; yell at me and I’ll tune you out. Speak softly and I’ll listen to what you want me to hear.

  24. Sue said:

    I am so tired of the loud commercials. If the industry only realized how many people are offended by the noise, turn the channel, hate their product or hit mute and don’t even hear their million dollar ads maybe they would change. HA! Guess if they can’t get the message there should be a law. Maybe we should sue them and then maybe we could pay our bills and high taxes.

  25. Marian Tudor said:

    I think that they should be allowed to “shout” their commercials to us, so we can se who is the loudest and therefore the ruddest and never buy their products. Anyway lately i am avoiding as mouch as possible the products that have commercials … i prefere to compare the product features using data sheets and comparing products between them att the departament store..

    Rude rude and rude again!

  26. Marian Tudor said:

    Anyway I would prefere to pay more for the program just to not have to see commercials alltogether.. then I realize that the “sience” channels are becoming to turn into money making alone, rather than educational and money makeing so I mainly rent movies and read newspapers for news. Probably I will terminate the contract for the cable. The sports are anyway availeble online so…

  27. Jim Wiggins said:

    Let’s encourage programmers to help us drive Nielsen nuts and tech our way out of this…
    Suppose we ask for a program that not only records any commercial that shows a significant change in decibel level, but that AUTOMATICALLY lowers volume, OR hits the mute button, OR that changes the channel to another one in our favorites list OR that switches to one of several alternative channels where they are displayed in a Picture in Picture format….While we’re doing that ..take it a step further..if it records a commercial and sees the same one within say, two hours,(pick a number) then have it “ban” that commercial and automatically switch to options listed above or play music while we wait…This would FORCE fewer repetitive commercials and MORE NEW commercials…and CREATE JOBS!!..Ta Da!!:)

  28. seth said:



  29. Brian said:

    Do like I do, push MUTE and ignore the commercial………….I bet the sponsors love that;)

  30. Con said:

    I think there should be a required volume standard that the FCC should monitor.

  31. Leo August said:

    Advertisers just don’t get it. They think they have to be loud to break through the clutter. It’s not just the volume, it’s the content as well. Take note of how may times you see/hear someone screaming in an ad next time you watch TV. The number of ads with screamers is on the rise.

    What advertisers don’t understand is that, although louder ads may get your attention, they also annoy. This is the last thing you want to do to customers/prospects.

    Personally, I no longer patronize those companies with annoying ads. I also mute the volume on my TV or change the channel when an annoying ad comes on. This latter point is important. Broadcasters do all they can to get people to watch their shows/channel. If they knew how many people changed the channel or turned off their TVs because of annoying ads, they’d boot those advertisers in a second.

    Smarten up marketers. Turn down the volume of your ads, get rid of the “in your face” screamers (e.g.: Travelocity, Progressive, J.G. Wentworth, etc.) and start treating your customers and prospects like the valuable potential business they are.

  32. Steve said:

    Is it me or is the gulf between the loudness of the shows and the loudness of the commercials widening? It is terrible, it goes from inaudible to deafeningly loud however I set the volume. I’m just gonna stop watching commercial T.V. if this goes on much longer. It serves only to annoy me. Having products rammed down my throat really gets on my nerves. Advertisers can shout at me as loudly as they like it will have the opposite of there desired effect. More people should complain about it.

  33. Jeromy Stewart said:

    I am outraged, don’t send a salesman over to scream in my ear and don’t wake up my neighbors with your greedy intrusive over compressed commercials, while it is true that selling products that kill people slowly is legal. At least let us live and sleep in peace while you figuratively dismantle my body, life, dignity and privacy.

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  35. Beauty said:

    They have been talking and talking about the volume of commercials but apparently nothing has been done. Well not until DISH released their new Hopper that I just learned about. I got to test it out and their TruVolume is really incredible. If you haven’t heard about it keep reading. Pretty much TruVolume levels the volume of commercials so you aren’t getting so many loud ones. They will be all the same. Being a customer and employee of DISH, I can’t wait to get my own and I do recommend you check it out.

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  38. Canuck said:

    Ummm let’s see, when a commerical comes on late at night and is blaring, and other’s in the house hear it when theya re trying to sleep….COMMON SENSE PEOPLE….It is wrong!!

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