Those Annoying Loud TV Commercials to Get Scrutiny From the FCC

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Here’s something to do if that TV commercial is too loud: complain to the feds, who just might do something about it.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission on Monday asked for public help to determine whether to update rules to prevent broadcast, cable and satellite providers from sending commercials that are louder than the programming they accompany.

“In particular, we invite consumers to tell us their experiences,” the agency’s media bureau said in a public notice.

The action follows an April 13 letter from Representative Anna Eshoo asking FCC Acting Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel to look into a reported increase in complaints about loud commercials. Eshoo wrote a 2010 law, known as the CALM Act, or Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, that underpins FCC rules that may be changed.

The FCC has never sought to enforce the act, despite receiving thousands of complaints, Eshoo said. A recent press report said complaints to the FCC had increased “sharply,” Eshoo wrote. “This worries me a great deal.”

Eshoo mentioned a March 31 report in Business Insider that said complaints to the FCC for the four-month period from November to February rose 140% compared to the same period a year earlier.

Renewed scrutiny means TV stations should carefully review their compliance with the CALM Act rules, David Oxenford, a Washington-based broadcast attorney, said in a blog post Monday.

“Every now and then, the FCC seems to take steps to remind broadcasters of their obligations,” Oxenford said. “This seems to be one of those times –- so broadcasters, take note.”

The FCC is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans until a vacant seat is filled. Enforcement of existing rules “may well be one place where the current commission will turn its attention” while more controversial changes await action, Oxenford said.

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