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Congress agrees to control television commercial volume

A woman watches TV while drinking wine.

TEXT OF STORY

JEREMY HOBSON: Lawmakers in Washington were finally able to agree on something. And it'll affect almost all of us. The House yesterday passed a measure that has already passed the Senate and will go to President Obama's desk.

Let's go to Marketplace's Gregory Warner to find out exactly what it is they passed. He's with us live now -- Gregory what is it?

GREGORY WARNER: It's called the Commerical Advertising Loudness Mitigation Act - the acronym there being C A L M - The CALM Act, and it sets rules on how loud television commercials can be. For decades the FCC had no regulations on volume, when citizens complained about their TV ads blasting out louder than the TV show, the agency literally told people to use the mute button. Even advertisers have welcomed this bill, because they say they're caught in an arms race, where they don't want to be loud but they have to be because the other guys are.

HOBSON: Everybody's got to be loud. So explain to me -- if no one likes loud ads, not even the people that make them -- why did it take Congress or the FCC 30 years to come up with this law?

WARNER: The reason is acoustic physics. It's actually much harder than you'd think to measure loudness. So if just do a quick example for listeners here IF I WERE GOING TO TALK LIKE THIS IN A PERSISTENTLY LOUD AND BOOMING VOICE you would quickly turn me off. But if I was talking to you and you know I got excited and just let one word fly out LOUDER than the others, that would seem fine. So for decades that's what's flummoxed the FCC. You can have a peak volume that's pretty high, and TV shows take advantage of that for dramatic purposes, but if EVERYTHING IS AT THAT VOLUME LIKE A COMMERCIAL it's horribly annoying.

HOBSON: Yeah I'd say so, but maybe our listeners are finally awake now. Marketplace's Gregory Warner, thanks so much.

WARNER: Thanks Jeremy.

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