WASHINGTON — Congress is coming to the aid of millions of Americans who find themselves reaching for the mute buttons to silence those loud television commercials.
"The problems with ear-splitting TV advertisements have existed for more than 50 years. Not five, 50," California Democratic Rep. Anna Eshoo said. "Television advertisers first realized that consumers often left the room during commercials, so they used loud commercials to grab their attention as they moved to other parts of their home."
On a voice vote late Thursday, the House of Representatives passed a bill sponsored by Eshoo that would force the Federal Communications Commission to set new, lower volume standards for ads.
The legislation, which the Senate already has been signed off on, now goes to President Barack Obama for his signature.
Eshoo said her bill would "return control of television sound modulation to the American consumer."
The broadcast advertising industry argued that the legislation was unnecessary because broadcasters could police themselves.
On Thursday, the HULA Media Exchange, a distributor of broadcast advertising, announced that local and network broadcasters and cable outlets automatically would start receiving advertising spots with lowered volume.
"We're really helping broadcasters and cable networks alleviate a growing problem, without any additional cost or equipment investment on their part," said Roger Cucci, the company's vice president of engineering.
Currently, the FCC has no volume restrictions on ads. Under Eshoo's bill, ads couldn't be louder than the loudest portions of the TV shows in which they're placed.
Consumers can buy volume regulators to adjust the sound of ads, but consumer advocates say they shouldn't have to invest in more equipment.
At an earlier House hearing on the issue, Joel Kelsey, a policy analyst for the Consumers Union, called the legislation an "elegant and common-sense solution."
"Representative Eshoo's legislation will go a long way towards preventing advertisements from screaming at consumers in their own living rooms," he said.
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