The CALM Act, meant to end the dreaded "loud commercial," is set to go into effect tomorrow, December 13. We summarized the requirements for compliance with the Act here. Basically, TV stations must adopt certain practices set out in a series of standards known as A/85 Recommended Practice, adopted by the ATSC (the Advanced Television Standards Committee). As we advised stations, the rules initially required any station needing more time was supposed to ask for a waiver of the rules by October 12. In an Order released on Tuesday, the FCC granted two waivers, and also decided that any other station needing more time could request a waiver as late as the compliance deadline date.
In the order, the Commission granted two waiver requests - one for just a month and a half as the cable system simply had a misunderstanding of what they needed to do to achieve compliance, and the second until the end of May because a TV station was in the middle of a studio move, and promised to install the new compliant equipment at the new studio. The Commission also reminded stations that there are two kinds of waivers available – automatic waivers, upon request, for small stations (those with under $14 million in annual revenue or in a TV market from number 150 to market 210) and small cable systems; and other waivers for stations facing specific problems, including financial hardships. Those who do not qualify as small stations would need to demonstrate the specific hardship justifying the waiver. So any stations or systems seeking a waiver have a last chance to do so, by Thursday.
This Act has been a very popular with the general public, with many people outside the industry waiting for the effective date which they believe will solve all issues with perceived loud commercials. Some industry observers question whether all problems will in fact be resolved by the compliance standards, as the nature of commercials themselves make them seem louder than programs in which they are inserted, even where the volumes are objectively the same. But we hope that many do perceive a difference, so that there will not be a flood of complaints to the FCC, and so the issues that have prompted many viewers to request this Congressional action will be remedied.