Dec 13 - FCC Votes to Control Loudness of Commercials by TV Broadcasters
Tuesday, December 13, 2011 10:42 AM
Dec 13, 2011 - The FCC voted unanimously today to adopt the new CALM Act, a bill passed by Congress last year to govern the loudness of all broadcast and pay television content, including all commercials transmitted which are often louder than the television show viewers are watching.
The new CALM Act regulations don't go into effect until Dec. 31, 2012, however. The act regulates the audio of TV commercials from being broadcast at louder sound volumes than the TV program material they accompany. Viewers have complained to the FCC and other government agencies about loud commercials for decades, which prompted the new law when the broadcast and cable TV industry failed to regulate itself.
"The order requires that all stations and MVPDs comply with both the local commercials they insert and with the embedded commercials they pass through as part of programming supplied by a network or programmer," according to Lyle Elder, in the FCC Media Bureau's policy division.
Under the order, the FCC's Enforcement Bureau will notify stations and MVPDs of potential non-compliance if it receives "a pattern or trend" of consumer complaints, Elder said.
"To promote a level playing field, a certifying programmer must make his certification available to all distributors," he continued. "To be in the safe harbor with regard to commercials and non-certified programming, larger stations and MVPDs must perform annual 24-hour spot checks of channels carrying non-certified programming."
Large broadcasters with more than $14 million in annual receipts and the top four MVPDs, with 10 million or more subscribers, must spot check 100% of non-certified programming. MVPDs with fewer than 10 million but more than 400,000 subscribers, must spot check 50% of non-certified programming.
"This will increase the likelihood that at least one entity is spot checking all commercial programming including regional or other programming not carried by one of the top four MVPDs," Elder said. "This approach will also ensure that national programming is spot checked on multiple days over the course of a year."
Once a larger station or MVPD has provided two years of spot checks on its non-certified programming and found no evidence of non-compliance, it may stop making annual spot checks and remain in what is being termed 'the safe harbor'. Smaller stations and MVPDs are excused from annual spot checks.
"If alerted to a pattern or trend of consumer complaints, a station or MVPD must perform a 24-hour spot check of the channel at issue. This requirement applies to all stations and MVPDs regardless of size and applies to both certified and non-certified programming. However, if complaints implicate both large and small stations or MVPDs, the bureau would generally focus enforcement inquires on the larger entities."
Spots checks, whether annual or in response to a pattern or trend of complaints, would require further action only if they indicate non-compliance by a programmer. In that case, the station or MVPD must notify the commission and programmer within seven days and conduct a follow-up process with 30 days.
"If that follow-up spot check reveals non-compliance, the station or MVPD will not be in the safe harbor for that programming and would be liable for future violations," Elder said.
In response to the FCC's action, NAB EVP of Communications Dennis Wharton said: "We think the FCC struck the right balance in implementing the CALM Act and look forward to working with them going forward."
And Matthew M. Polka, president of the American Cable Association, said his organization "appreciates the FCC's time and attention throughout the rulemaking process in seeking to understand and mitigate the potential burdens that this legislation could impose on smaller operators."