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Turning down the volume (on TV ads)

From NBC's Kelly O'Donnell
Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is ready to take on that annoying blast of sound when TV commercials are just too loud and wants to compel the Federal Communications Commission to fix it and require the ads to be at the same decibel level as the programming.

Whitehouse has introduced legislation called the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act of 2009, or CALM. New York Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) is a co-sponsor.

Democrats say the FCC has received consumer complaints about commercials being louder than television shows since the 1960s. In the 25 quarterly reports on consumer complaints released by the FCC since 2002, 21 have listed as a top complaint the loudness of television commercials. Earlier this year, the Consumers Union, the nonprofit organization that publishes Consumer Reports, stated in testimony before the House of Representatives that "the CALM Act provides an elegant and common sense solution to finally ending a 45-year consumer complaint in the United States."

Whitehouse said in a statement, "Every day, millions of Americans are barraged with abrasively loud television commercials. With the digital transition complete and new broadcast technology available, we can finally take this long-overdue action to dial down to normal the loudness of these ads."

Schumer added, "The last thing television watchers want is an advertisement shouting at them every time a TV program takes a commercial break. This legislation will go a long way in protecting TV viewers from disruptive and unnecessarily loud commercials."

Rep. Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA) has introduced companion legislation in the House.