Are Commercials Louder Than Regular Programming?


When commercial break starts do you always dive for the remote to turn down the volume? You’re not alone! Many people complain that commercials are significantly louder than the program they are watching. But are commercials really louder than regular programming? The answer is yes. Commercials are designed to grab our attention and hold it, with catchy music, beautiful people, and of course volume.


Legislation Regulating Commercial Volume


Are TV stations turning up the volume when commercials come on? Not exactly. There is legislation that controls how loud commercials can be played. According to the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act effective from December 2012, commercials must have same average volume as the program they are viewed with. The Federal Commuications Commission (FCC) enforces these rules. All television stations, TV providers, cable operators and video program distributers must apply an algorithm to the commercials that accompany their programming. This software measures and regulates the volume of both the programming and the commercials to keep the average volume at the same level.


Why Are Commercials Still Louder than the Programming?


Since the legislation came into effect in 2012, commercials still seem to be louder than the accompanying program. This is because of a loophole in the legislation. The average volume of the commercial must be the same as the average volume of the program, so commercials insert several seconds of very quiet passages. This makes their average volume the same as the average volume of the program. For the listener though, it’s jolting to go from a quiet moment in a drama to an obnoxiously loud mattress salesman yelling about discount boxsprings. The listener will perceive a huge change in volume even though the commercial has the same average volume as the program.


Fixing the Loophole in the CALM Act


Effective June 2015, the CALM Act has been modified and a new algorithm will determine average volume levels. This improved algorithm excludes quiet or silent passages when calculating the average volume of a commercial. The commercial will then have a high average volume level, forcing them to dial back the sound on the entire commercial to match the volume of the program. We won’t have to scramble to turn down the volume during commercial break, since this new algorithm means the commercial will match our perceived loudness of the programing.


Reporting Loud Commercials: You Can Help!


The FCC relies on public reports to monitor commercial volume. If you hear a loud commercial you can file a complaint electronically using the Commission’s complaint form at By providing specific information about the commercial, the date and time you saw it, the TV station or provider, and the program you’re watching, you can make a difference! The FCC will monitor this commercial or station, and will take action if they are not in compliance with the CALM Act. In the first year after introducing the CALM Act, the FCC received more than 20,000 complaints about loud commercials. This number has shrunk to under 700 complaints in the past year as the volume on commercials is finally getting dialed down.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our audiologists.
Orange County Physicians’ Hearing Services
(949) 364-4361