Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Television Advertising Government

A Year After Ban On Loud TV Commercials: Has It Worked? 288

Posted by Soulskill
from the where's-the-beef dept.
netbuzz writes "It's been a year since the FCC implemented the CALM Act, a law that prohibits broadcasters from blasting TV commercials at volumes louder than the programming. Whether the ban has worked or not depends on who you ask. The FCC notes that formal complaints about overly loud commercials are on the decline in recent months, but those complaints have totaled more than 20,000 over the past year."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

A Year After Ban On Loud TV Commercials: Has It Worked?

Comments Filter:
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @06:34PM (#45664841)

    It says that on average they must be the same audio level as the programming.
    So, they yell, then there is a pause and then someone else yells at you.

    • I'm guessing it says that on average they must be the same audio level as the programming.

      FTFY.

    • by L4m3rthanyou (1015323) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @07:24PM (#45665473)

      What I'm noticing lately is that they'll mix the commercial audio "creatively" to increase its effective volume. I'll be watching a show on cable with 5.1 audio (so, mostly dialogue out of the center speaker), then have a commercial come on and pipe all its audio through both front speakers, at the "maximum" volume. The levels are probably about the same, but it still gets that "attention jolt" from the perceived increase in volume.

      The other annoying trend is the use of excessive "wub wub" (bass) in ad music. Result is the same, increased distraction without "excessive" volume.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @08:16PM (#45666011)
        Nice conspiracy and you may be correct since we all know the sleaze in the ad business but at least for the wub-wub part, that is due to the current popularity amongst teens and young adults with dubstep music. A pic my daughter used to keep on her desktop said "Dubstep- my heart doesn't beat, it wobbles." For an old fuck like me, it is a truly horrendous musical genre that isn't welcome on my lawn. To imagine what it sounds like just envision what you might hear outside of a closed garage door that has 2 Transformers fucking inside. Good ol' Tranformer hate sex. This genre is popular amongst most of the nerd crowd so I dare not post this honest flame under my UID.
      • by linebackn (131821) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @08:46PM (#45666335)

        Another skummy thing I have seen on at least a few instances, a show will reach some climatic scene with important dialog, and before the main character's voice even trails offTOYOTA SAVING!

      • by zippthorne (748122) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @09:07PM (#45666469) Journal

        The problem could easily be solved by, instead of regulating the volume levels, regulating that the media companies cannot own the DVR companies.

        The DVR companies would then compete on features, one of which being commercial skip. If the commercials are kind enough to make themselves easily identifiable by noticeably higher volume, the commercial skip feature of your typical DVR will be happy to use that data to accurately slice them out.

        The war ends with commercials being better integrated with the content, either through product placement or through matching the style of the content they are inserted in.

        That is, as long as the DVR producers are ideologically and financially separate from the companies selling the ads....

        • by C0R1D4N (970153)
          Dish has this feature already for prime time television, but it doesnt activate til midnight after airing.
        • by Grishnakh (216268)

          That's totally impossible to do in reality. Making it so the media companies can't own the DVR companies would require non-corrupt government regulation, which is impossible in the USA. That's like asking for financial regulation that doesn't reward big finance companies for failure, and prevents them from gambling banking deposits on housing.

          • by mellon (7048)

            Maybe if you spent less time making apathetic comments on /. and more time working to change things, it wouldn't be impossible anymore. The fact is that grass roots organizing works, and we've seen it work. Making cynical, apathetic comments also works, but the effect is has is to dissuade people from doing what works.

  • No complaints here (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sk999 (846068) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @06:35PM (#45664863)

    My analog TV died just before the switch to all-digital. I never replaced it. Been CALM ever since.

    • by GumphMaster (772693) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @07:52PM (#45665765)
      I Don't Own a TV [xkcd.com]
  • by alfrin (858861) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @06:36PM (#45664877)
    Now that I exclusively use online streaming services to watch television shows, I find the commercial volume issues there are far more irritating than I ever experienced on actual television. Spotify is the worst culprit, since it PAUSES the commercial if you lower your system volume. You cannot even avoid the obnoxiously loud commercials there.
    • by Russ1642 (1087959) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @06:45PM (#45665003)

      Stop using the service then. Seriously. If something is that insanely bad then just go without.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by alfrin (858861)

        Stop using the service then. Seriously. If something is that insanely bad then just go without.

        That's the equivalent of saying "TV commercials are annoying, so stop watching TV at all." That's not a solution to the actual problem, that's just hiding from it. I love the actual service, I just find the intrusiveness of the commercials unnecessary( and counterproductive to the purpose of commercials i.e. to convince me to buy a product)

        • Well, there is always the option to use them as a paid service. As far as the ad-supported version goes, if people (as a whole) avoided ad-supported services, I'm sure the issue would sort itself out one way or another (that is, the business would change its monetization model or go out of business). It seems like hiding in the short term, but it would force the "problem" to solve itself in the long run.
          • by CWCheese (729272)
            Well that was the whole deal with CATV many decades ago, when it was beginning to be widely marketed they said we would pay for transmission of programming and not see advertising, or a very small amount of ads. We can plainly see how that's turned out, there's much more advertising than content on pretty much every channel except C-SPAN. I don't hate ads, but please we need to see a higher percentage of content versus ads.
            • by Culture20 (968837)
              And then that was the deal with tapes and DVDs, but now some movie and TV DVDs have unskippable ads for other movie and TV DVDs. Ech.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Rockoon (1252108)

          That's the equivalent of saying "TV commercials are annoying, so stop watching TV at all."

          Yes, exactly like a completely valid and rational reaction, and a wholly achievable policy.

          Its true: You don't have to use other peoples services unless you choose to ('cept for that whole health insurance mandate.)

        • by khallow (566160)

          That's the equivalent of saying "TV commercials are annoying, so stop watching TV at all." That's not a solution to the actual problem, that's just hiding from it. I love the actual service, I just find the intrusiveness of the commercials unnecessary( and counterproductive to the purpose of commercials i.e. to convince me to buy a product)

          Well, given that not using the service actually does solve the problem of listening to loud commercials, I really don't see the point. "Hiding" works here.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      lower you speaker volume.
      Of course, this means there may be a market for speakers that detect the gain increase and auto lower the volume in the speaker box and not in the system.

    • Spotify is the worst culprit, since it PAUSES the commercial if you lower your system volume.

      I guess the physical knob on my speakers would be getting more of a workout then. Does it also do that in the web player [spotify.com] (which they apparently don't show the link to on Windows)?

    • by fermion (181285) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @06:55PM (#45665103) Homepage Journal
      I tend to mute my computer during commercials, especially now that the commercials can run into 3 minutes.

      I wonder if the advertisers realize that a commercial on streaming is not the same as a commercial on TV. That a three minute break on TV is ok. After all, if one is watching live TV one can wander around the house and still probably hear the TV, hear the commercial, and get back in time for the show, even if you have to do a live rewind. If you are watching recorded TV, most of the time you can fast forward which means that if a commercial is well made you are at least seeing the branding.

      OTOH, since the ads on streaming has become more than a minute, I tend to mute and do something else, then back up the content if I miss something. I have heard TV executives screaming about how mad they are that they can only sell a fraction of advertising on streaming that they can on TV. But what is going to happen when advertisers realize that nobody is going to hand around for three minutes to watch the ads? Probably the same thing that happened to web sites when ad people realized that banner ads were being ignored.

      • But what is going to happen when advertisers realize that nobody is going to hand around for three minutes to watch the ads? Probably the same thing that happened to web sites when ad people realized that banner ads were being ignored.

        They'll start putting streaming ads in the middle of the page, correction songs?

      • by Deadstick (535032)

        There's a technique I've noticed lately that seems aimed at defeating the fast-forward. In the middle of a string of five or six commercials, they insert a teaser for the program that's running, in the hope it will make you click "Play" and get ambushed by the next commercial.

    • by onyxruby (118189) <onyxruby@comcastRASP.net minus berry> on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @07:05PM (#45665249)

      This is exactly the kind of issue that should be talked about. I use more than one streaming service and now know not to even bother trying Spotify. This is the market in action, make sure you tell as many people as you can.

    • Well. At least I don't need to bother signing up with spotify now. Thanks.

    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      Adblocking and blackholing DNS names seems to work quite well. It's really rare for me to see an ad.

    • The Spotify technique has always impressed me. Turning the volume too low is clearly the obvious solution to avoiding adverts, so they figured out how to reduce the number of customers who don't pay but still want to avoid the ads.

      As a premium subscriber, I have managed to avoid the Spotify commercials for about two years - so it is possible to avoid them, at least in the UK. If only I had the option of paying £10 a month to cut adverts out of broadcast TV too.

    • by Khyber (864651)

      See, this is why I sit in a sound chair with analog inputs. Detect analog volume controls from input only, hah!

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Now that I torrent whatever I want to watch I don't care how much paid services suck.

      Saving money by dumping cable makes me smile too.

    • Spotify is the worst culprit, since it PAUSES the commercial if you lower your system volume.

      What you need is audio output to a dedicated hardware amp and mixer that controls volume beyond the ability of any software running on the system to detect or interfere with it.

  • by fred911 (83970) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @06:37PM (#45664905)

    To the amount of people now viewing broadcast TV. I woulkdfnt even consider viewing commercial TV realtime.

  • Cut the cord (Score:3, Informative)

    by Scared Rabbit (1526125) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @06:37PM (#45664911)
    I couldn't tell you. I cut the cord three years ago and haven't looked back. Sure I don't get to see the latest and greatest things, and must instead wait for video/netflix, but it's been worth it.
  • Wrong Forum (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rsborg (111459) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @06:39PM (#45664937) Homepage

    Most /.'s I image don't put up with Ads.

    I sure as hell haven't noticed ad volume - of course, I gave up broadcast TV with ads since I got my first TiVo in 2003. DVRs all they way, but nowadays I don't even watch TV that's not Netflix - only the kiddos have time to watch TV in our house (how else would I have time to post on /. ?)

    • Even with Tivo, it might take a few seconds to grab the remote and skip past those SOBs, and those few seconds, it can still blare at you.

      • by rsborg (111459)

        Even with Tivo, it might take a few seconds to grab the remote and skip past those SOBs, and those few seconds, it can still blare at you.

        True, which is why I really like ad-free (or ad-between-shows) channels like Nick Jr. (which is pretty much the only broadcast tv that gets watched in our house - exception being the Dance reality shows). The worst is when it's an ad for some horror movie - do not like my kids being exposed to suggested gore and violence in a damn advert.

      • by Belial6 (794905)
        That's why it is sad that ReplayTV got sued out of business. They did automatic commercial skip.
        • by Zynder (2773551)
          Agreed. Apparently they didn't pray that the deal wouldn't be altered further subsequently causing the deal to be altered until they died.
      • Your still on tivo how very 90's of you. Automatic commercial skipping has been around forever now.

  • by mythosaz (572040) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @06:43PM (#45664987)

    ...it's the switch from national programming to regional or zip-code based advertising.

    Program.
    National commercial.
    National commercial.
    REGIONAL COMMERCIAL
    Program.

    My cable network screws this up regularly on Comedy Central. South Park goes into break, and then a BLARING LOUD commercial for a local product happens.

    I skip most commercials that aren't on during live sports -- but I watch a lot of live sports, and they're guilty too.

    I blame an idiot working in the Cox video operations center.

    • by Pinkfud (781828)
      I have Cox, and by far the loudest and most obnoxious commercials are THEIRS! They have this guy who screams everything, goes COX BUNDLE!! over and over, etc. It does annoy me, sometimes to the point of grabbing for the mute button.
    • Also, the local commercials are often SD, even on the cable company's own HD channels (which appear to be OTA-HD channels that have been transcoded, poorly, to a lower bitrate...).

      Not only SD, but also they don't even deign to let my TV do the up-conversion, they've converted it for me to the "higher resolution" of HD. And often double-letterboxed, too, because apparently it's too expensive to up-convert all the way from 480 to 1080...

    • PRECISELY. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Controlio (78666) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @10:06PM (#45666917)

      I'm an audio mixer for several of the national and regional networks. I deal almost exclusively in live sports, and I can tell you we are monitored to a ridiculous degree. We have averaging meters in our trucks (measured in LKFS), and the TOC monitors the show AND commercials (in DB on a 3s average). The TOC logs the averages with timecode and video thumbnails (for reference) and saves them, as they are the only defense they have against CALM complaints. The TOC is quick to notify us during the show if we're too loud or too quiet and the averaging is out of compliance.

      The problem is, no one at home is smart enough to know the difference between a national spot, a local spot, and a spot that your cable provider inserts. So the complaint becomes "Fox Sports played a loud commercial!!1!!!1!!!one!!!" when the culprit is actually the Comcast head-end in Gary, Indiana.

      Between the meters, the logging, and the constant monitoring, broadcast is jumping through a lot of hoops to be CALM compliant. But the networks don't have end-to-end control of their signal, and the end user is at the mercy of their local cable headend. Almost all of the problems you experience happen there. I can't tell you how many times we find a surround downmix where the announcers are almost inaudible, because a cable operator (and sometimes even a satellite provider) is doing an improper downmix, and the 4.1 channels are blowing out the center on the stereo feed. The networks try to QC as much as they can - most of the network offices have receivers for every cable and satellite (and FiOS, AT&T, etc) service they can get their hands on, and constantly monitor as many of them as they can - trying to find and fix the problems proactively rather than wait for the vague and usually inaccurate complaints to roll in from the FCC.

  • It didn't effect all commercial immediately. Commercial in run or already in contract and so on.

  • The volume of the commercials in SyFy's streaming videos is what drove me to install AdBlock, so in that case it backfired on them. TV commercials don't seem nearly as obnoxious as they used to, but maybe it's just me.
  • by themushroom (197365) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @06:45PM (#45665001) Homepage

    Here's what happens at my house at commercial breaks on Comcast: The program is fairly quiet, the beginning of the advertisement is just as quiet (CALM in effect) but in the last 10-20 seconds you sense that the volume is going up to just below a shout... then the show resumes and it's quiet again.

  • And now it's time to ban commercials featuring unrealistically beautified people.

    • by jader3rd (2222716)

      And now it's time to ban commercials featuring unrealistically beautified people.

      How else will I find out how people can be unrealistically beautified?

    • by FunkDup (995643)

      And now it's time to ban commercials featuring unrealistically beautified people.

      You want to look at ugly people? Think of the hotness!

  • by wcrowe (94389) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @06:54PM (#45665097)

    The volumes haven't changed. Except it now seems like they start at a reasonable volume, then slowly increase in volume as the commercial continues. It could be that some people don't notice this. This also, no doubt, allows a commercial to still comply with the law since the ad's "average volume" can still be within the limits of the program it accompanies.

    The complaint process itself is also extremely tedious. No person is going to want to key in all that information for every loud ad they have to suffer through.

    In short: all the teeth were taken out of the law, so as usual we have another useless law that doesn't work and helps no one except those it is intended to control. Government by the people, my ass.

    BTW, I'm seeing a lot of posts about how watching broadcast TV is "old-school", as if it is stupid to still be doing so. I would agree, except that it is still virtually impossible to watch live sporting events online. I'm not a sports nut, but I do like college football, and that means suffering through a lot of deafening ads.

         

    • I'm seeing a lot of posts about how watching broadcast TV is...stupid...but I do like...suffering through a lot of deafening ads.

      I think you've just confirmed the reasons why so many people see broadcast TV as "old-school", and those who flagellate themselves in front of it as slightly north of insane.

  • I stopped watching traditional TV years ago. YouTube, YLE Areena [areena.yle.fi] and Twitch are my television now.
  • ... or the network.

    We've found that the Chicago CBS affiliate has an audio level that is consistently louder than any other station. And their audio levels seems to get louder late at night. Not exactly scientific evidence to be sure but the missus and kids can always tell when I'm watching Letterman instead of Leno because of the loud commercials.

  • Don't know if it worked or not, but I do know it came too late. I, along with most people I know, switched almost exclusively to streaming services where we pay much less *and* have fewer commercials. Sure, this law doesn't apply to streaming services, but most of them seem to at least pretend to give a shit about their viewers and enforce it anyway.
  • I have had Netflix for about 4 years or so, and I also *had* a cable subscription. Netflix does not have any ads what-so-ever. Last week I saw a free trial for Hulu Plus and I jumped on it. I was appalled that a paid service would have ads displayed in the middle of a show, then I realized that I pay for cable tv and that there are ads in the middle of all of those shows. Now, all I have is Netflix, and I am ad free. Even since I realized this, I find it disgusting that any paid service have any type of adv
  • by TheloniousToady (3343045) on Wednesday December 11, 2013 @08:06PM (#45665895)

    "I find television very educational. The minute somebody turns it on [too loud], I go to the library and read a good book."
    - Groucho

    Since I'm not as much of a reader as Groucho, I just mute the television when the commercials are too loud. Beyond solving the immediate problem, there's a certain moral satisfaction in it. Heck, maybe it even constitutes some form of Pavlovian conditioning for the advertisers: after all, if they think loud commercials work, they must think that muted commercials don't.

  • Don't watch commercials.

  • The FCC is "hearing" fewer complaints... I see what you did there!

  • I mean, what do we want? We want to get rid of the commercials in our program. What is the problem? Well, identifying it, of course. If it could be auto detected, it could easily be auto removed.

    And here they go and give us something to identify them.

    I am unfortunately not an expert on videos and the like, but shouldn't it be possible to create something like a tool that can identify the volume of the programming and if it is beyond normal to switch to something sensible? Like, say a quick zapping through t

  • IMHO, the ban needs to apply to Youtube and other streaming video services.

  • Show is broadcast in Dolby, but commercial is in stereo.
  • I've noticed a big difference in commercials since this came into effect, and I've really appreciated not having to turn down the volume as soon as commercials start only to have to turn it up again when the commercials are over, or worse... accidentally forgetting to do this and being blasted with the first commercial of a commercial break.

    That said... I notice every once in a while that I encounter a commercial that isn't playing by these rules... and it's always ones by the same companies... so while i

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears

Working...