WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 2011 -- Pretty soon there'll be no need to reach for the volume-control button on the remote the next time a commercial interrupts a favorite TV show.
Today the Federal Communications Commission unanimously approved new rules that require cable and broadcast stations to play commercials at the same volume as the TV shows they break into.
The new FCC order is a step in carrying out the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation, or CALM Act, which President Obama signed in 2010. The CALM Act required television stations to turn down the volume on disruptively loud ads.
Come December 2012, when the CALM Act takes effect, those commercials that blare at a much louder volume than the shows will be history.
The act requires television stations to maintain the same average volume for both programming and ads, so consumers don't have to adjust the levels at each commercial break.
Members of the commission praised the act for addressing a problem that had plagued consumers for decades.
FCC Commissioner Mignon Clybourn said without this protection, consumers had "endured what sometimes were frightening decibel levels that resulted in considerable alarm, anger and spilled popcorn" for years.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski called having parity between the volume of commercials and the volume of a television program "an issue that people care about, that consumers care about."
"With today's vote, I'm pleased that we're able to eliminate something that millions of consumers perceive as a pervasive and annoying problem," he said.
The CALM Act requires stations to buy equipment that regulates these sound levels, ensuring the mean volume of the advertisements is no louder than that of the programming. It will be regulated with different check systems, depending on a station's size.
William Lake, chief of the FCC's Media Bureau, pointed out that such regulations had not been possible in the past because of limitations on analog television.
Televisions across the country switched to digital signals in June 2009.
The original CALM act signed last December gave the FCC the power to grant a one-year exemption to those stations that show they would incur "financial hardship" if forced to comply with these standards. After that time, they can apply to renew that exemption for another year.
For those viewers who don't want to wait that long to enjoy a peaceful TV experience, an automatic volume adaptor can monitor an individual television set and adjust the volume when it detects a dramatic increase in loudness.