Although more people may complain about the weather, apparently some number of people also complain to their elected officials about the phenomenon of TV commercials which startle them by blaring out at a loudness higher than the surrounding program material. Preventing the loud-ad phenomenon is not as easy as it sounds, because television programs naturally contain a wide dynamic range of loudness due to program content, dramatic progression and creative choice; and processing all TV sound into a dull monotone hardly seems desirable. Thus, after years of studied avoidance by the FCC and legislators, the U.S. Congress has now kicked the issue over to engineers where it probably belongs.
In legislation sponsored by Silicon Valley representative Anna Eshoo, Congress has adopted the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM Act), which addresses the issue by giving the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) a one-year deadline to simply adopt by reference, as-is and without change, an existing industry technical standard (“Recommended Practice: Techniques for Establishing and Maintaining Audio Loudness for Digital Television”), known as standard A/85 of the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) which developed the overall technical standards for digital television. Upon FCC adoption of the A/85 standard, all cable operators, satellite and other multi-channel video programming distributors, and television broadcast stations, will be required to use the A/85 standard for loudness in TV commercials, unless they have obtained a waiver on good cause shown to the FCC. (CALM Act, S.2847, 111th Congress, 2nd Session, 2010) The A/85 standard may be found at: http://www.atsc.org/cms/index.php/standards/recommended-practices/185-a85-techniques-for-establishing-and-maintaining-audio-loudness-for-digital-television.