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CALM ⁠i⁠n a S⁠t⁠orm

By: The James Madison Institute / December 15, 2010

The James Madison Institute

Blog

December 15, 2010

By Robert F. Sanchez, JMI Policy Director
In early December, while the Obama Administration and key members of the lame-duck Congress were struggling to seal a deal extending jobless benefits and the “Bush tax cuts,” taxpayers had reason to be overjoyed: The other lawmakers’ time was not going to waste.Indeed, perceiving yet another grave national crisis, members on both sides of the aisle in both the House and Senate sprang into action, overwhelmingly passing the CALM Act. This legislation’s purpose is revealed in its title acronym: “CALM” stands for “Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation.”As the New York Times reported, “The act directs the Federal Communications Commission to regulate volume levels in a manner that has already been embraced by the Advanced Television Systems Committee, an industry group.”We’re not sure how many more employees the FCC will need to hire to sit in front of TVs 24/7 to monitor the decibel levels of the ads vs. the programs on thousands of TV stations and scores of cable channels.However, if you’re jobless and interested in that kind of work, you’ll have to wait. As The Times story noted, “The F.C.C. has a year to take action, and then the affected television providers have another year to comply.” Meanwhile, your jobless benefits presumably will continue.We’re generally skeptical of piling on additional federal regulations to deal with minor nuisances. In fact, as The Times story noted, some 40 percent of U.S. households now have digital recorders that allow viewers to fast-forward past the ads. Moreover, there’s always the mute button on the remote control.Even so, the CALM Act has been sent to President Obama, who’s expected to sign it. So if it’s going to be implemented, there’s one kind of TV advertising whose excessive volume is especially annoying and needs to be the initial focus of the legions of new federal regulators: political ads aired by, among others, candidates for Congress. I’m Bob Sanchez, and I approved this message.