16 December 2012


Amid the shock and grief surrounding the Sandy Hook School shootings ~ amid all the political posturing by both sides in negotiations to avoid the looming fiscal cliff ~ amid the shopping frenzy and preparations for the holidays, an element of relative calm has quietly entered our lives.  Two days ago, on December 13th, the FCC began enforcing legislation which was passed in June 2008.  Known as the CALM Act, the law prevents television broadcasters, as well as satellite and cable providers, from airing commercials at a volume louder than the program content they accompany.

And I'm thinking, what took so long?  (Answer ~ money and lobbying, of course.)  For most of my adult life I've been annoyed when a program I'm watching is interrupted by a commercial blaring its message at me as though I lived a mile away.  My automatic response was to hit the "mute" button on the TV remote.

One can imagine that at some point, some Madison Avenue advertising genius hit upon the idea of boosting the ad volume as a way of drilling home the ad's message, and that the practice quickly took on the characteristics of an arms race among competing networks, until ad loudness approached the volume of a rock concert.  Sitting in the front row.

But for me, and hopefully for many consumers, the intrusion has the opposite effect, alienating us from the product, and from commerce in general.

Starting three days ago, the aural onslaught ceased.  Ads remain an annoying reality, but at least they are less likely to cause hearing loss.  Consumers may (and should) report violators directly to the FCC at www.fcc.gov.

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