Sound with No Fury

Anyone who grew up in or around Chicago in the last three decadesĀ  likely has seen the “Blues Brothers” and can relate to the scene I’ve adapted to numerous scenarios over last 30 or so years.

It’s the part where the recently-released from prison Jake Blues visits his brother, Elwood’s apartment in the city–right along the Elevated tracks.

“How often does the train go by?” Jake asks.

“So often, you won’t even notice it,” Elwood shouts over the passing train.

The movie’s a cult classic and the line remains on the tip of my tongue in any number of situations whenever I’m confronted with loud noise (i.e. passing by a construction site and one of my kids asks, “How often do they use the jackhammer?” Without flinching, my response is “So often, you’ll hardly notice it.”)

It’s not the greatest example of parenting, I know, but my kids and I laugh at it.

The reason I bring this up is because today, for the first time since the technology was created, you will no longer have to ask the question as you’re reaching for the Mute button on the remote, “How loud are those *&^%$ television commercials?”

That’s because, unlike the Blues brothers, you actually have noticed their decibel levels do rise from the normal program you’re watching. In fact, a thousand Americans have officially complained to the government about it while another five thousand have asked whether their ears or television sets were playing tricks on them.

No tricks, but now there’s a treat. Under the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation, or CALM, Act that Congress passed in 2010, broadcasters and satellite providers, had until today to tone it down: literally. To give you an idea just how annoying loud tv commercials are, Republicans and Democrats actually agreed on a solution. The measure passed the U.S. Senate unanimously and on a voice vote in the U.S. House.

So that means, if you’re watching a re-run of “Casablanca” late one night or a new episode of “Modern Family,” you won’t be subjected as you go to a commercial break to a huckster screaming at you that with prices so low, they’re CRAZY!

I’m by no means an expert on consumer electronics, but his prices do seem pretty good, maybe even a bit crazy?

Anyhow, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is in charge of the regulation and says it won’t become the sound police, but will rely on viewers to make sure broadcasters are complying with the new policy. If you think a channel is violating the new rules, go here to complain: http://www.fcc.gov/complaints

The Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission is about two years ahead of us in dealing with this annoyance. It put together a video explaining the difference between a loud commercial coming out of normal programming and a commercial with similar audio levels to the program being watched. Scroll ahead to the 45-second mark to see how it’ll work.

Oh, and one more piece of extremely good news to share with you that unfortunately comes a few months too late for those of us here in Wisconsin. However, we can take advantage in the future.

Political commercials are NOT exempt. We all remember how often they’ve come by and it’s debatable as to whether we even noticed.

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