Hate loud TV commercials? Well, you're not alone and you're in luck. The Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday announced new rules requiring cable and TV companies to keep volume levels constant, instead of blaring ads to make them stand out from the quieter programs they interrupt. Here's what you should know:
How big of a problem is this?
Among consumer complaints to the FCC, gripes about loud ads have long ranked highly, earning a top spot in 21 of the 25 quarterly reports the agency has released since 2002. The problem got so bad that last year, Congress approved the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, or CALM Act, calling for FCC regulations to protect viewers' ears. "I never characterized this as saving the Union," Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) tells USA Today. "But consumers have been asking for it. We may not have peace in the world, but we may have more peaceful homes."
When will commercials get quieter?
The new rules take effect Dec. 13, 2012. That gives cable companies a year to buy new equipment to control volume, as mandated by the CALM Act. But it will be worth the wait, FCC Commissioner Mignon Clybourn tells ABC News, because consumers will finally get relief from years of "what sometimes were frightening decibel levels that resulted in considerable alarm, anger, and spilled popcorn."
How have TV companies reacted?
They're balking. The devices they'll need to regulate volume can cost up to $20,000 a pop, and the Congressional Budget Office estimates that cable operators and TV stations will have to collectively spend "tens of millions" of dollars to comply with the new rules. The National Cable & Telecommunications Association, a trade group whose members include cable giant Comcast, said cable operators shouldn't be responsible for commercials inserted by the networks that produce the shows.