Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act

The following is a copy of my letter to Mr. Julius Genachowski, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission regarding their ruling Tuesday regulating the volume level of television commercials.

December 15, 2011

Chairman Julius Genachowski
The Federal Communications Commission
445 12th Street, SW
Washington, D.C.  20554

Dear Chairman Genachowski,

Thank you for passing the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act.  I have written the Federal Communications Commission several times over the years complaining about the high volume level of television commercials.  I know the standard response from the television networks is that commercials are no louder than the show in which they air, however, being involved in various forms of both music and video recording for many years; I understand how you get around that requirement.  All you have to do is find the peak volume of a particular show then record and air the entire commercial at that peak volume.

It does not take a sound engineer to realize that commercials are much louder than the program a viewer is watching.  All it requires is normal hearing.  When you consider that there are electronic gadgets on the market to level the volume of commercials to the televised program being watched, no further proof is warranted.  One complaint I do have is why did the Federal Communications Commission gave the television industry one year to comply?  Why does it take the networks that long to conform to this new regulation?

While I am writing, let me raise another issue I have with television commercials, that being the vast number of them.  The number of commercials per hour by the television networks has doubled since the late 1950s and early ‘60s, back when television was free.  Watching these old shows on DVD, a one-hour show contained fifty-two minutes of actual programming, leaving only eight minutes for commercials.  Nowadays, one-hour shows contain only forty-four minutes of programming, doubling the commercial time to sixteen minutes.  I have noticed that some newer half hour shows are actually only twenty minutes long, which represents a whopping one hundred and fifty percent increase in the number of commercials aired every hour during the past fifty years.

A decade ago, ABC’s John Stossel had a documentary entitled Hype in which he investigated the effect that hype by the television industry has on people.  One segment showed a group of kindergarten age children sitting in front of a wall of different colored blocks and on each block was a letter of the alphabet, each of a different font.  Just by looking at a single letter of the alphabet written with a particular font, these young children all knew exactly what product they represented.  For example, when the letter “g” was pointed out, the kids all screamed Kellogg’s.  Needless to say, I was very disturbed by what I saw.

When you consider how the networks now throw in pop-up ads during a show, product placements or how they now reduce the size of closing credits in order to show even more commercials, we are being inundated with advertising.  I watch a lot of twenty-four hour news channels, mainly MSNBC, and it seems that they have commercial breaks every five minutes.  Sports are another prime example of how more commercials are infiltrating our lives.  In the old days, football games lasted three hours and basketball games were two hours long.  A typical football game now is three and a half hours long while basketball games are two and a half hours.  The games themselves have not gotten any longer; it is because of all the commercials.  Both sports even have actual stoppage of play just for commercials.

Children today spend more time sitting in front of a TV or computer screen than they do in school, all the while becoming hypnotized by the seemingly never-ending commercials.  Television can be a great thing, but it is brainwashing our children with its hype and mass commercialization of all things.  I can see the day coming when I no longer watch television except for DVDs because of the excessive number of commercials.


Steven H. Spring



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