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.
Q: Does the FCC currently regulate loud commercials?
A: Yes. The Commission adopted rules on December 13, 2011 that require commercials to have the same average volume as the programs they accompany. The rules became effective on December 13, 2012, one year after the date of their adoption. Broadcast television stations and pay TV providers were given until this date to be in full compliance.
Q: What does the CALM Act require the FCC to do?
A: Specifically, the CALM Act directs the Commission to establish rules that 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.
Q: What is the ATSC A/85 Recommended Practice?
A: 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.
Q: When did the rules take effect?
A: The Commission's rules became effective one year after their adoption, on December 13, 2012.
Q: Are there any exceptions to the compliance date?
A: Yes. A one-year waiver of the effective date of the rules may be granted by the Commission to any TV station, cable operator or other MVPD that shows financial hardship in obtaining the equipment to comply with the new law. The Commission has authority to renew the waiver for one additional year. In accordance with the new rules, several small TV stations and MVPDs have certified to the Commission that they qualify for a one-year waiver of the effective date of the rules. These “streamlined financial hardship waiver requests” are publicly available in the CALM Act proceeding’s docket, MB Docket No. 11-93, through the Commission’s Electronic Comment Filing System (“ECFS”): Docket 11-93. Generally, these waivers apply to small cable systems or small TV stations, often in smaller TV markets.
Q: What can I do about loud commercials?
A: Provide the FCC with specific information about TV commercials that seem louder than the programming they accompany by filing a complaint. You may also submit a complaint to the relevant TV station, pay TV provider, programming network or advertiser to convey your concern.
Q: What will the FCC do with my complaint?
A: We will evaluate individual complaints that provide specific information about the commercial in question and track them to determine if there are patterns or trends that suggest a need for enforcement action.
Q: Will the new rules eliminate the problem of loud commercials?
A: The rules should eliminate any systematic difference between the loudness of commercials and the loudness of the programming they accompany. The ATSC practice that Congress directed us to adopt does not set an absolute cap on loudness. Rather, it requires commercials to have the same average volume as the programming they accompany, so that the volume a consumer chooses is the one at which both the programming and the advertisements will air. We hope and expect that compliance with this practice will significantly reduce the problem of loud commercials for consumers.
Q: Why do the rules only pertain to commercials?
A: The CALM Act does not address loudness differences between programs or channels on a given station or MVPD.
Q: Do these rules also apply to radio commercials or commercials on the Internet?
A: No, the CALM Act only applies to commercials aired on television.
Filing a Complaint about Loud Commercials
The Commission will rely on consumer complaints to monitor industry compliance with the rules. You may report commercials that seem louder than the programming they accompany to the FCC at any time. This information will help identify possible problem areas and will assist the Commission in enforcement of the rules. Specifically, the Commission will use the detailed information from complaints to identify patterns or trends of noncompliance for a particular station, pay TV provider or commercial.
We recommend that you file your complaint electronically using the Commission’s online complaint form found at https://consumercomplaints.fcc.gov/hc/en-us. To access the form, click on the Complaint Type button -- TV (includes Cable and Satellite), or Radio -- then the File Complaint link. Once the form opens, select the "Issues" drop-down box, and then click on the “Loud Commercials” option. Additional fields will then appear that are relevant to this topic. Click on the “Submit" button to file your complaint online. To enable the Commission to evaluate your complaint, you should complete the form fully and accurately.
You may also file your complaint by fax to 1-866-418-0232 or by letter mailed to Federal Communications Commission, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, Consumer Inquiries & Complaints Division, 45 L Street NE, Washington, DC 20554. If you need assistance filing your complaint, you may contact the Commission’s Consumer Call Center by calling 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) (Voice) or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) (TTY). There is no fee for filing a consumer complaint.
In order for the FCC to evaluate the complaint, we need the following information:
- State if you watched the commercial on pay TV (such as on cable or satellite) or if you watched it on a broadcast television station using an antenna;
- The name of the advertiser or product promoted in the commercial;
- The date you saw the commercial;
- The time you saw the commercial;
- The name of the TV program during which you saw the commercial;
- State which TV station (by call sign and/or channel number and the station’s community) or pay TV provider (with its system location) transmitted the commercial; and
- If you watched the commercial on pay TV, the channel number on which you saw it and the cable programmer or network, such as CNN or HBO.
FCC Quiets Persistent Problem of Television Age - Loud Commercials - by Adopting Rules to Reduce Volume.
News Release: Word | Acrobat
R&O: Word | Acrobat
Genachowski Statement: Word | Acrobat
Copps Statement: Word | Acrobat
McDowell Statement: Word | Acrobat
Clyburn Statement: Word | Acrobat
For more information about the Policy Division, Media Bureau, please visit the Policy Division website.
For more information on Television broadcasting, please visit the Video Division website.
FCC > Media Bureau > Policy Division, and Video Division, (202) 418-1600.