Yesterday, the House of Representatives passed the CALM Act, directing the Federal Communications Commission to adopt regulations controlling the volume of commercials on television broadcast stations, cable systems, satellite, and other multichannel video programming providers. This bill was passed by the Senate in September. Once signed by the President, the Federal Communications Commission will be required to adopt a rule to implement the legislation within one year, and the rule is to become effective within one year after its adoption. The FCC rule is to adopt parts of the ATSC A/85 standard, which seeks to target the volume of commercials in digital programming to the volume of dialogue (or other “anchor element”) in the accompanying program. An interesting description of the issues that must be addressed in determining just what is "loud," and for controlling that volume, can be found in a recent Wall Street Journal article (here, subscription may be required).
Congressional estimates are that the costs of necessary equipment range from a few thousand dollars to $20,000 per device, for an aggregate industry cost of tens of millions of dollars. Congress anticipated that the costs may be burdensome for small cable operators and smaller market television broadcasters, and provided that waivers may be granted for financial hardship for one year renewable terms The Commission may also grant waivers or exemptions from the rule that it adopts for classes of broadcasters and multichannel video programming distributors under the FCC’s general waiver authority.