Congress Approves the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act

By Michael Silbergleid

From the NAB’s TV TechCheck:

On December 2, 2010 Congress approved the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act which gives the FCC the authority to create rules intended to mitigate variations in volume level (loudness) between programming and commercials. Specifically, the CALM Act requires that within one year after the date of enactment (i.e. when the president signs the Act) the FCC must adopt rules incorporating by reference and making mandatory ATSC A/85 (and any of its successor standards).

A/85 is titled Recommended Practice: Techniques for Establishing and Maintaining Audio Loudness for Digital Television, and was approved by the ATSC in November 2009. This Recommended Practice provides guidance to broadcasters and creators of audio for ATSC high-definition (HD) or standard-definition (SD) television content and recommends production, distribution and transmission practices needed to provide the audio soundtracks to the digital television audience. It focuses on audio measurement, production and postproduction monitoring techniques, and methods to effectively control loudness for content delivery or exchange while maintaining a large dynamic range. It recommends methods to effectively control program-to-interstitial loudness including the use the Dialog Normalization (dialnorm) metadata parameter to transparently set different content to a uniform loudness (See TV TechCheck from November 9, 2009.). The CALM Act limits the FCC to focusing on those parts of the recommended practice that concerns the transmission of commercial advertisements by a television broadcast station, cable operator or other multichannel video programming distributor.

The Act also requires that the rules adopted by the FCC take effect one year after those rules are adopted. So stations will have two years from the time the president signs the Act (or approximately December 2012) to come into compliance with the new rules. In addition, for stations that demonstrate that obtaining the equipment needed to comply with the new regulations would result in financial hardship, the FCC may grant a waiver of the effective date by one year and then may renew that waiver for an additional year.

Finally, the Act states that any broadcast television operator, cable operator or other multichannel video programming distributor that installs, utilizes and maintains in a commercially reasonable manner the equipment and associated software in compliance with the regulations issued by the FCC shall be deemed to be in compliance with such regulations.

A copy of the bill can be found on THOMAS, The Library of Congress legislative information Web page Under the heading “Search Bill Summary & Status” search for bill number “S2847”. Select text of the legislation and the most recent text is available under Item #4. A/85 is available on the ATSC Web page here:

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