As of Dec. 13, networks will have to be careful in turning up the volume on a promotional spot. That means the last joke in a comedy before a commercial break can’t be followed by a persistently louder promo for other programming.
Implementation of the CALM (Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation) Act by the FCC requires both promos and advertising to have the same average volume as the programming.
Congress passed CALM looking to address consumer complaints about loud commercials. Legislators likely gave scant attention to any frustration in the TV business resulting from treating promos and ads the same.
The FCC makes it pretty clear it believes a distinction would distract from the turn-down-the-noise intention of the legislation. “From a consumer perspective, we believe that there is no difference between promos and other commercials,” the commission wrote.
Earlier this month, the cable industry trade group -- National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) – filed a petition to get the FCC to reconsider and make a distinction between promos and ads.
In its filing, the NCTA wrote that the FCC “mistakenly conflates” promos and ads, arguing “commercial advertisements are material transmitted in exchange for some type of payment or remuneration, while promos are not.” (The filing was first reported by Multichannel News.)
As the NCTA portrays it here, the “payment” concept is clearly true. Unless a sponsor is mentioned in a promo, networks aren’t paid for them.
But the NCTA is using a de jure definition from the Communications Act. From a de facto perspective, promos fall under the umbrella of “commercial advertisements.”
They are designed to generate interest in future programming to bring in ad dollars and higher affiliate fees. Ads for toilet paper or iPads have the same goal: get consumers to do something that generates revenue.
Promos and ads are making pitches to consumers in a similar fashion. Even though a promo may not involve a direct pay-for-play arrangement, the intention is the same.
It makes sense for the FCC to treat the two as the same when considering CALM implementation. What a coup it would be for networks if promos were exempt, bringing louder promos than the programs and ads. Talk about standing out.
The ad industry should make sure promos are treated the same as ads to avoid the prospect of distracting from their messages.
Both networks and cable operators aren’t thrilled with the CALM Act. And the NCTA represents both factions. Its network members could do without restrictions placed on promo loudness. And cable operators want as little trouble as possible in ensuring promos and ads don’t go above the prescribed CALM noise threshold.
It's not just cable operators worried about bumpiness. Under CALM, the burden is also on satellite operators, telco TV providers and stations to ensure the content they carry complies with the legislation.
The NCTA argues making a distinction between promos and ads could save operators a lot of time and money. Networks without ads such as C-Span, the Disney Channel and HBO wouldn't need to be monitored.
But here's a case where networks opposed to CALM might be concerned. Exemptions for promos on the Disney Channel and HBO could only serve to take viewers away from them.
Cliche warning ... CALM continues to make noise in the industry.