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Broadband Deployment Law Advisor Insight and Commentary on the Deployment of Communications Infrastructure

CALM Act Directs FCC to Regulate Loud Commercials

Posted in Privacy and Cybersecurity

Late yesterday (December 2, 2010), Congress adopted the CALM Act, directing the Federal Communications Commission to adopt regulations controlling the volume of commercials on television broadcast stations, cable systems, satellite, and other multichannel video programming providers. Once signed by the President, the Federal Communications Commission will be required to adopt rules within one year, to become effective within one year after adoption. The rules are supposed to adopt parts of the ATSC A/85 standard, which seeks to target the volume of commercials in digital programming to the volume of dialogue (or other "anchor element") in the accompanying program.

Congressional estimates are that the costs of necessary equipment range from a few thousand dollars to $20,000 per device, for an aggregate industry cost of tens of millions of dollars. Congress anticipated that the costs may be burdensome for small operators and smaller market television broadcasters, and provided that waivers may be granted for financial hardship for one year renewable terms, and may also be granted under the FCC’s general waiver rule.

Although the ATSC A/85 standard recommends techniques for handling program-to-interstitial transitions, commercials may still seem loud to viewers when compared to the quiet dialogue that might precede a commercial break. Congress has tried to insulate broadcasters and multichannel video programming providers from responsibility for how commercials sound subjectively by providing that commercially reasonable efforts to install, use, maintain, and repair the required equipment will be deemed compliance with the rule.