US Congress passes law to lower volume of television ads
In the end it took an act of Congress, but US television advertisers are finally required to do something parents have been demanding of them for decades: turn down their excessively loud ads.
"A small bill with a big impact for the American consumer" is how congresswoman Ann Eshoo described an act which came into force on Thursday, to the blessed relief of countless US television watchers.
"TV is about to become quieter," she said.
For years Americans have endured television with excessively loud commercials, but the Calm Act, short for Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation, is changing that.
"The rules adopted today require that commercials have the same average volume as the programs they accompany," the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which Congress empowered to enforce the new measures, said in a statement.
Eshoo, a congresswoman from California, said the issue hit home with her four years ago during a family dinner, when she was cooking and relatives were gathered around the television.
"Everyone was watching and talking and then the blast arrived ... And I shouted out to my brother-in-law, 'do something about that. Turn that thing down'," Eshoo said. "And he turned around and said to me, 'you're the congresswoman, why don't you do something about it?'"
In December last year, Congress approved the measure, which the FCC hailed as "a major step toward eliminating one of the most persistent problems of the television age - loud commercials".
Advertisers were given a year to prepare for the new rules.
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse admitted "that this is clearly not the biggest thing happening in Washington".
"But it is one less nuisance, one less annoyance for regular Americans," he added.
The FCC has noted that complaints from viewers about loud commercials began in the earliest days of television and had been among the leading causes of complaints since 2002, when the agency launched a call centre.