Update: Revised CALM Act Rules Adopted

The rules implementing the CALM Act have been changed. But don’t worry: the revised version won’t take effect for another year.

The CALM Act, designed to make LOUD COMMERCIALS a thing of the past, was enacted in late 2010. The Commission diligently undertook the necessary follow-up rulemaking to implement the Act. The resulting rules were adopted in December, 2011; they took effect in December, 2012, per the schedule dictated by Congress.

And, as we reported last year, by 2013 the rules already had to be amended.

That led to a further rulemaking proceeding which has now been concluded. Since Congress gave the FCC no discretion in the matter, the rule changes proposed last fall have been adopted.

If you want more background on all this, check out our post from last November. The short version: The CALM Act ordered the FCC to incorporate into its rules ATSC A/85 Recommended Practice (RP), a standard for monitoring and controlling the loudness level of digital TV programming. At the time, the latest and greatest version of that RP was vintage 2011, so that’s the one the FCC adopted. But, recognizing that standards and technology are constantly evolving, Congress also ordered the FCC to update its rules to incorporate any subsequent changes to the RP.

Sure enough, the RP was updated in early 2013, which meant that the FCC had to do likewise with its rules.

The change: where the RP refers to ITU-R BS.1770 (an ITU-recommended algorithm), that reference has been revised to specify “ITU-R BS.1770-3”, the most recent iteration of the algorithm. If you really must know, ITU-R BS.1770 is a “measurement algorithm [that] provides a numerical value that indicates the perceived loudness of the content (measured in units of LKFS – loudness, K-weighted, relative to full scale) by averaging the loudness of audio signals in all channels over the duration of the content.” Happy now?

While the FCC had no choice but to adopt the revision, it did have some discretion when it came to setting the effective date for the change.

In this case, the Commission has decided that the newly-revised rule will not take effect until June 4, 2015. The FCC’s thinking (seconded by the NAB) is that many TV licensees and MVPDs bought CALM Act-compliant gear when the initial rules took effect in 2012; according to the NAB, most of the gear deployed to comply with the 2011 ATSC A/85 RP can be modified through “relatively low-cost software upgrades” to comply with the 2013 version. Because of that, the Commission figures a year should be plenty of time to get the job done. (The FCC does note that anybody who wants to comply with the 2013 now rather than wait until next year may do so.)

The Commission advises that, come June 4, 2015, waivers may be available to those who can show that to comply with the 2013 RP would be “significantly burdensome”. But even if such a waiver is granted, the station or MVPD will still be expected to comply with the 2011 RP in the meantime. (A few stations already have waivers covering the 2011 RP, but those are set to expire no later than December 13, 2014.)

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Comments (5) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
George - June 5, 2014 9:25 AM

A solution in search of a problem.

Gregory - July 2, 2014 10:25 PM

I don't care what kinds of laws that are passed...If the violators find a way around it, then what's the use..The commercials are still extremely loud, that is if you still have good hearing, which I do...If the FCC is gonna regulate something, then follow it all the way to the hilt, no exceptions. Loud is still loud, and I'm a musician, who knows about pitches and frequencies, which manipulated in the right way can send you up the wall, which 99% of the ads are doing to me now....FCC,don't just make the laws...Make the networks adhere to all the blasting that still going on with the ads that they are running....

Stephen Dolle - October 10, 2014 3:59 PM

The CALM Act legislation to prevent "unhealthful" manipulations of the volume signal coming into OUR homes is not only a public health issue. But it is an ADA protected cognitive accessibility issue. It really frustrates me that industry and others do not get this. I've lived with a hydrocephalus condition & 12 shunt surgeries since 1992, and also am a neuroscientist working with sound, music therapy, and cognition. I personally feel industry should have voluntarily addressed this problem as they largely have with decency in broadcasting. Maybe the next time you see a veteran who suffered some level of TBI from battle, as him/her how they enjoy today's TV programming. Their answer may surprise you. You might also do the same to parents of children with autism. And the list goes on. FIX IT!

Sandy - October 11, 2014 6:01 PM

I agree with Gregory. You spend a lot of money passing laws and nobody monitors them. I live in a condo and have to keep my remote in my hand so I can immediately turn it down when the commercial comes on so I don't disturb my neighbor's. I will never buy anything advertised on one of these programs just for that reason.
Children are going to grow up with hearing problems if something isn't done about this.
Make the the networks accountable!

Dolly Andersen - October 14, 2014 4:28 PM

Why laws are never enforced is hard to understand. I live where many more older people live and try to keep noise down. After it was suppose to be much better they added whistles,bells,music and many more irritating sounds.

By the time anything might really be enforced, cable will be out of the picture.
It is no wonder people are against the cable company's.

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