Quiet TV ads might take time

I seem to remember something about the FCC requiring TV stations to monitor and reduce the volume on all commercials. I thought this was supposed to start in January 2012. I don't think it's working yet.

— Ron T., Williams

We have good news and bad news, Ron. The good news is that the Federal Communications Commission did indeed begin the implementation process of the 2010 Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (or "CALM") act on Dec. 13, 2011. The congressionally approved act will require commercials on all broadcast television stations and pay TV services to be the same average volume as regular programs.

The bad news, as you've apparently noticed during your evening television viewing, is that the screeching can continue until the compliance deadline of Dec. 13 of this year.

Some stations have already made the switch.

"It's pretty straightforward with the right equipment," said Eric Rand, chief engineer for KMVU Fox 26. "We are in compliance."

Rand explained that the primary piece of equipment the station needed to add is an audio limiter, a device that adjusts the audio feed to prevent those obnoxious spikes in volume.

An FCC representative directed us to a website devoted to the topic. Although the law isn't in effect yet, the agency encourages viewers to report commercials that seem louder than the programming by calling 1-888-225-5322, faxing 1-866-418-0232, or sending snail mail to the Federal Communications Commission, Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau, Consumer Inquiries & Complaints Division, 445 12 St. SW, Washington, DC 20554. Be sure to include the time, channel, a description of the commercial, whether you were watching over an antenna or using a cable or satellite service and include your contact information.

If you have a home theater system with high-end audio equipment or a modern television, the solution to those pesky commercials might already be in your living room. Look for settings for Automatic Gain Control (or "AGC" circuits), Audio Compressors, Limiters and/or Peak Limiters, or Audio Filters.

You can find more information at www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/loud-commercials. If that seems too complicated, there's always the mute button.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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