Turning down volume on TV commercials is welcome

Congress took common-sense action aimed at keeping advertisers from screaming at consumers.


Have you ever noticed that television commercials are a lot louder than the show you were watching?

Of course. How could you not? Often a commercial's volume is at such an ear-splitting level you have to leap for the mute button to avoid permanent hearing loss.

Geez, there oughta be a law.

And now there will be a law if President Obama signs off on legislation approved by Congress last week that forces the Federal Communications Commission to set lower volume standards for ads broadcast on public airwaves.


Now, let's be clear. This is not the issue of our time. Frankly, on the list of concerns Congress needs to address this is way -- way, way -- down on the list.

Yet, it's a problem that can be easily fixed. So why not fix it?

"The problems with ear-splitting TV advertisements have existed for more than 50 years. Not five, 50," said Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., the prime sponsor of the legislation. "Television advertisers first realized that consumers often left the room during commercials, so they used loud commercials to grab their attention as they moved to other parts of their home."

Eshoo's legislation, which gained final approval with a voice vote in the House, will -- in the congresswoman's words -- "return control of television sound modulation to the American consumer."

This law could, in the long run, help advertisers. The dramatic change in volume between the program and the commercial has conditioned most TV watchers to hit mute the second an ad appears. But if the volume level remains the same some might opt to leave the sound on and the advertiser's message will be, well, heard.

The broadcast advertising industry argued that the legislation was unnecessary because broadcasters could police themselves. True. But they haven't. Broadcasters have had half a century to make changes and haven't made a move in that direction until Congress tackled the issue.

On Thursday -- the day of the House vote -- the HULA Media Exchange, a distributor of broadcast advertising, announced that local and network broadcasters and cable outlets automatically would start receiving advertising spots with lowered volume.

Wow, Eschoo's legislation is effective. It's getting results even before it is signed into law.

Even so, President Obama should sign the legislation. Without a law -- or threat of a law -- the volume of commercials will again rise. This common-sense approach to turning down the volume has been needed for years.


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