As we highlighted yesterday in our weekly summary of regulatory issues for broadcasters, last week saw a letter from Congresswoman Anna Eshoo to the FCC asking for the FCC to review the enforcement of the rules established by the CALM Act, which prohibits loud commercials on TV stations. The letter cites news reports of thousands of complaints annually to the FCC since the rule’s adoption in 2012 without there ever having been an enforcement action against a station for any violation. When the CALM Act was passed by Congress, there were many industry questions about how that law could be enforced, as there are many subjective judgments in assessing whether a commercial is louder than the program into which it is inserted (see our article here). But, ultimately, the FCC adopted rules that were based on industry standards and most parties seemed to believe that they were workable (see our article here about the adoption of those rules). Like many FCC rules, the CALM Act rules are complaint-driven, and even the article cited by Congresswoman Eshoo recognized the difficulty in assessing the merits of any complaint.
Nevertheless, with this letter and the publicity that it has received in the broadcast trade press, TV stations should carefully review their compliance with the CALM Act rules, as this publicity could signal that the FCC will turn its attention to this issue in the coming months. In fact, with a Commission that is currently evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans until the vacant seat on the Commission is filled, enforcement of existing FCC rules may well be one place where the current Commission will turn its attention while more controversial (and potentially partisan) rule changes await FCC action.
Continue Reading Congressional Letter to FCC on CALM Act Violations Puts Focus on FCC Enforcement Issues