Overview. Federal Communications Commission (FCC or Commission) rules require commercials to have the same average volume as the programs they accompany. In the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act, Congress directed the FCC to establish these rules, which went into effect on December 13, 2012.
Specifically, the rules require TV stations, cable operators, satellite TV providers or other multichannel video program distributors (MVPDs) to apply the Advanced Television Systems Committee's (ATSC) A/85 Recommended Practice ("ATSC A/85 RP") to commercial advertisements they transmit to viewers. The ATSC A/85 RP is a set of methods to measure and control the audio loudness of digital programming, including commercials. This standard can be used by all broadcast television stations and pay TV providers.
The CALM Act applies only to commercials aired on television—it does not apply to radio commercials or commercials aired on the internet or via streaming services. In addition, the CALM Act does not address loudness differences between programs or channels on a given station or MVPD—its scope is limited to differences in loudness between commercials and the programs they accompany.
Enforcement. The FCC relies on consumer complaints to monitor industry compliance with the CALM Act rules. Recognizing that commercials can seem loud, subjectively, without violating the rules, the Enforcement Bureau focuses on patterns or trends of complaints as the basis for enforcement action, rather than pursuing individual, isolated complaints. In the event the Enforcement Bureau notifies a station or MVPD of a pattern or trend of complaints, the station or MVPD must demonstrate compliance with the rules. Stations and MVPDs have two choices for demonstrating compliance with the rules: (1) by demonstrating actual compliance or (2) by demonstrating ongoing compliance with the ATSC A/85 RP. For additional details on how to demonstrate compliance with the rules, please see the Small Entity Compliance Guide for the CALM Act.
Rules & Statutes
- 47 CFR § 73.682(e) (Stations) - TV transmission standards
- 47 CFR § 76.607 (MVPDs) - Transmission of commercial advertisements
- 47 U.S.C. § 621 - 47 USC 621 - Rulemaking on loud commercials required
April 19, 2021 - Public Notice
Media Bureau Seeks Comment on Effectiveness of CALM Act Rules
June 4, 2014 - R&O
FCC Adopts Minor Technical Changes to Calm Act Rules
December 3, 2013 - Public Notice
Media Bureau Announces Comment and Reply Comment Dates for CALM Act Further Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
December 13, 2012 - News Release
Loud Commercial Rules Became Effective December 13, 2012
December 11, 2012 - MO&O
Media Bureau Grants Two CALM Act Waivers
December 13, 2011 - News Release
FCC Quiets Persistent Problem of Television Age - Loud Commercials - by Adopting Rules to Reduce Volume.