Commercials on streaming services can be unbelievably loud. A new bill wants to fix that.
It's now in the House of Representatives where Rep. Anna Eshoo, the architect of the original CALM Act, will attempt to shepherd it into law.
The movement comes as consumer complaints to the Federal Communications Commission about excessively loud commercials have been rising steadily — complaints that almost always go unresolved.
A 2021 Insider investigation into CALM Act enforcement at the FCC found that overall enforcement was lax, and that despite thousands of complaints, the FCC has only sent two letters to offenders. The agency had not implemented a single penalty for illegal television commercial loudness.
Following that investigation, Eshoo sent a letter to the FCC inquiring why the rising tide of complaints did not lead to enforcement actions.
One reason that FCC hasn't addressed some of the complaints: they involved overly loud commercials on streaming services.
Over-the-top streaming services were not covered in the CALM Act, only cable and network television distributed by multichannel video programming distributors, or MVPDs. The new bill expands that, and directs the FCC to develop a regulation that encompasses streaming video services.
In a statement, Eshoo said: "I authored the CALM Act in 2010 with Senator Whitehouse to put an end to the booming ads on TV that were highly annoying for consumers. Since the law was enacted, streaming services have recreated the problem of loud ads because the old law doesn't apply to them, and consumers continue to complain about loud ads on broadcast, cable, and satellite TV. Today, we're updating the legislation for the benefit of consumers who are tired of diving for the mute button at every commercial break."
The bill also goes after the lax enforcement of the original CALM Act.
The bill calls for a Government Accountability Office report on CALM Act enforcement, specifically one that "evaluates the ability of the Federal Communications Commission to effectively moderate the loudness of commercials in comparison to accompanying video programming.