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TV Ad Volume May Finally Be Moderated

This article was written by in Consumer. 18 comments.

This is something I’ve wanted to see happen for my entire life. I never thought it would, and I’m only mildly political so I never pushed for it, but we may see a new law that says a TV commercial can’t be “louder than the program it accompanies”, nor can it be “excessively noisy or strident”.

At our house, we don’t get to see a lot of commercials, but our TV-service-provided DVR isn’t as elegant as a TiVo, and the 30-second skip button leaves a gap between skips, and some of those gaps are obnoxiously loud. Usually it’s people wanting to melt down my “extra” gold or sell me some unpainted furniture from a warehouse, but it could be anything. It makes me instantly angry, every time.

But just yesterday,

The House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet on Thursday approved a bill that would prohibit television commercials from being excessively loud. The FCC would be required to come up with recommended volume levels for commercials.

Broadcasters, TV stations and cable and satellite providers would then have one year to purchase the necessary equipment to temper noisy ads.

I wasn’t expecting new equipment to be necessary, since when we watch things on Hulu, the ads are never louder than the show I’m watching. When we watch videos on the Xbox, a TV show’s volume isn’t any louder than it would be if I were playing a game, and the same goes with a DVD. Even when watching any of the dozen channels on Boxee, I never have to scramble to adjust the volume. But I guess that “old school” TV providers (I have the extremely recent Verizon FiOS) are a mish-mash of suppliers and delivery devices, and there’s still a hole that needs to be plugged.

House panel seeks to hush noisy ads, Kim Hart, The Hill, Oct. 8, 2009

Hit the mute! Why TV commercials are so loud, and how that may change, Jeff Bercovici, Daily Finance, Oct. 8, 2009

Published or updated October 9, 2009.

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About the author

Smithee formerly lived primarily on credit cards and the good will of his friends. He is a newbie to personal finance but quickly learning from his past mistakes. You can follow him on Twitter, where his user name is @SmitheeConsumer. View all articles by .

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

Certain ads are loud on Hulu now. It is very annoying.

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avatar 2 Anonymous

Why legislate it now? We obviously have many more choices for programming as you’ve described… if enough people are driven away from viewership or if they complain enough to stations about the excessive volume, it will stop.
Also, “excessively noisy or strident” is about as subjective and ambiguous as language can get. What if the show being broadcast is just excessively quiet?
Let the government solve real problems. This just takes resources away from the truly important things in life.

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avatar 3 Luke Landes

Of all the problems in the world, you would think Congress, even a subcommittee, would be focusing on other things. The FCC should have been doing this independently. While the volume of commercials can be annoying I don’t see why legislation is needed. I’d rather see some regulation pertaining to product placement within shows. That’s not as loud, but it annoys me more, and it makes it difficult to identify what’s real and what’s a paid endorsement. The characters on Heroes getting excited about a Nissan Versa? Let’s eliminate that kind of junk.

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avatar 4 Anonymous

Sweet baby Jesus please make this happen.

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avatar 5 Anonymous

Take matters into your own hands and get a TiVo. :) (You can find ones with lifetime service on eBay.)


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avatar 6 Anonymous

I just hit mute and read during commercials. Or if I’m headed out of the room – bathroom break or snack break, etc – I know when to return (when the noise has stopped the program is back on). This way I make more efficient use of my time and I don’t have to pay attention to marketing. If the advertisers knew this they’d demand quieter commercials.

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avatar 7 Anonymous
avatar 8 Anonymous

I don’t listen to a single commercial because I have that blessed MUTE button. During the “mute” time I do other things, but my senses are not being constantly bombarded and assaulted by obnoxious loud rantings on mattress blowout sales ETC. I cannot tolerate even one moment of it, primarily because it is SO loud and offensive.
EVERYONE has a mute button now. Why don’t advertisers realize this fact? Because of the obnoxious toxicity of their commercials, most viewers see and hear NOTHING. So stupid on their part.

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