CALM Act (S. 2847) passes Congress, heads to President for signature

The CALM Act (S. 2847) – aimed at preventing “loud” commercials – has negotiated its final legislative hurdle. By voice vote, the House has passed the bill with an amendment to correspond to the version the Senate passed back in October. The House was actually the first to act on the commercial-quieting bill a year ago. The Senate didn’t get around to it until October, at which point a new section was added. The amended bill then had to schlep back to the House for its consideration of the new section, with which the House apparently had no problems.

As a result, Congress’s work on the bill is done, so it’s time for the bill to toddle on over to the White House for the President’s signature, which appears to be a foregone conclusion.

Public support for the bill has reportedly been substantial. Broadcasters and multichannel video programming distributors subject to its requirements may not be as pleased, though. The new law will require them all to comply with standards approved by the Advanced Television Systems Committee. Those standards have, up to this point, been characterized as mere “recommended practices”; once the President signs the CALM Act, those standards will be The Law. 

Complying with the new law may entail acquisition and installation of potentially costly new equipment. That’s the bad news. The good news is that the Act specifically provides for “financial hardship” waivers. (Of course, the fact that the prospect of “financial hardship” shows up at all at this early date in the process may be cause for some alarm, but let’s not over-react too quickly.)

When can broadcasters and MVPDs expect to see the new rules in place? The Act requires the FCC to have its rules amended consistently with the Act within one year of the Act’s enactment. The new rules in turn will become effective one year after their adoption by the Commission. So round about Christmas, 2012, we can expect all to be CALM.