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Oh My Tech!: Once again, turn down those screeching TV commercials!
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

After last week's column about the irritating rise in the frequency of television commercials, a couple of readers emailed me about another annoying problem involving TV commercials ­­— how loud they are.

Recently, there was a law passed prohibiting excessively increased volume on TV commercials. There are still repeat offenders on certain channels. Not sure [how] to report [them]. On most channels, the commercials maintain the same volume as regular programming, but some channels still repeatedly increase volume on selected commercials. — Thomas Manak, Murray.

Hello Mr. Horiuchi. In 2011 or 2012, I had heard legislation had been passed to start in 2013 to make all TV commercials sound the same as what program you were watching. I have noticed that this is not happening on most channels. When is the law supposed to take effect? —­ Jay Ingleby.

Thomas and Jay are referring to a new law passed late last year that prohibits broadcasters from blasting the volume of commercials on TV.

The amped up volume was a nasty tactic by advertisers to ensure they got viewers' attention. So imagine watching "The Big Bang Theory," when programming cuts suddenly to a Viagra ad where someone's voice blasts through the television speakers about male enhancement. Not good. And with the Super Bowl coming up this Sunday featuring the year's most-talked-about commercials, this is a complaint worth making again.

It's an issue that ultimately irked the wrong woman, Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo, a Democrat from California. "This has been a top consumer complaint for decades," she said at a news conference last December, according to the Los Angeles Times. "I never dreamed that this would strike the chord it did with the American public."

Several years ago, Eschoo drafted legislation mandating that broadcasters level off the sound of TV commercials. Turns out that wasn't an easy task. According to the Times, it took a team of international engineers to rewrite standards in broadcasting and come up with the required audio technology to be able to detect fluctuations in sound. Who knew such a simple request would require such deep thought and planning.

But underscoring the snail-like speed with which government works, Congress passed CALM, the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, in 2010, and it went into effect last December. The law gave broadcasters a yearlong grace period to install the new audio technology.

Obviously, not all stations are abiding by the law yet, according to additional complaints that have been pouring into the Federal Communication Commission since the law was enacted, according to U.S. News & World Report.

"This is the most commented-on issue [to the FCC] over the last 40 years," said Joel Kelsey, legislative director of the media reform nonprofit Free Press, who testified before Congress on the issue. "So I expect that as long as it's a problem that persists in the marketplace, consumers will draw attention to it."

Viewers can report overly-loud commercials to the Federal Communication's Commision on the agency's website at www.FCC.gov">http://www.FCC.gov or by calling 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-225-5322).

There's also one small do-it-yourself tip you can try. Almost all newer TV sets have a sound-equalization setting in the menu that you can turn on to level off the volume level between different types of programs. That might help when the station goes from a program to a commercial.

If you have a tech question for Vince, email him at ohmytech@sltrib.com, and he'll try to answer it for his column in The Salt Lake Tribune or on its website. For an archive of past columns, go to http://www.sltrib.com/topics/ohmytech. —

To report overly loud commercials

O Go to the Federal Communication's Commission website at www.FCC.gov">http://www.FCC.gov or call 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-225-5322).

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