Award Winning Blog

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Lessons From the Deregulation and Re-regulation of Broadcast Volume

            In 2010 Congress enacted and the President signed into law the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act whose requirements become enforceable now.  CALM reverses the FCC’s deregulation of commercial volume resulting in ever louder ads.  Broadcasters, cable television operators and satellite broadcasters must ensure that commercials and program content sound the same.
            In this time of extreme partisanship it’s remarkable to see representatives of both parties responding to constituents fed up with loud commercials, and disinclined to make do with frequent adjustments to the volume control on their remote controls.  Seems the unregulated marketplace for commercial volume led to an upward spiral, unmitigated by any notion of marketplace self-regulation.  I guess a libertarian would suggest that consumers could and should vote with their ears by changing the channel.
            Congress reached a better solution: regulation in the face of the inability of broadcasters to resist the temptation to offer advertisers a sneaky opportunity to “cut through the clutter” by raising the volume of their spots.  Of course the advantage proved short term when more and more commercials got louder and louder.
            The message here: sometimes society needs an adult in the room to prevent childish and potentially harmful behavior.  Left to their own devices broadcasters had no problem pumping up the volume to uncomfortable levels.  Even Congress rejected cavalier suggestions that consumers should bear the burden of self-help by changing channels, or turning down the volume.
            So how many jobs were lost in this market intervention?