December 13, 2012

Quieter on the set: new law will muffle loud, obnoxious ads

Those loud, annoying TV commercials should end Thursday under a new law that says the volume has to be similar to the program the ads interrupt.

By Ray Routhier
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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WGME-TV chief engineer Craig Clark says stations have equipment to make it easy to meet the new volume standard for commercials.

Photos by John Ewing/Staff Photographer

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WGME television's chief engineer Craig Clark in the station's production control room.


To lodge a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission about a loud commercial, go online to, click on "Broadcast (TV and Radio), Cable, and Satellite Issues," and follow the prompts for "Loud Commercials."

But one Portland station, Fox affiliate WPFO (Channel 23), has applied for a three-month extension, which it is allowed to do under FCC regulations. Dave Cox, head engineer, said the extension is necessary because WPFO is building a new master control room where the audio equipment will be housed.

Time Warner Cable, the area's largest cable provider with more than 360,000 customers in Maine, is also ready to comply with the new standards, said Andrew Russell, a spokesman for Time Warner in Maine.

So what happens if commercials are still a lot louder than regular programming? Carter says you can begin by calling the station, and it will try to address the problem. But the FCC also has an online platform for complaints:

The FCC said it will rely on viewer complaints to determine if commercials are too loud. And while program providers could face fines for not complying, penalties are not spelled out, according to the FCC.

Another of Maine's TV advertisers, Wally Camp Jr. of Rowe Ford Sales in Westbrook and Auburn Motor Sales, doesn't think the new volume levels will affect his business negatively, and he's ready to have his commercials run at whatever volume the TV stations tell him. Like Abrams, Camp appears in his own ads, and is often seen calling out, "Marking 'em down and moving 'em out."

"I really don't think it's going to impact us in any way," said Camp. "So whatever we're supposed to do, we'll do."

TV ads have received a lot of complaints over the years, but some folks feel they are just part of a larger overall problem -- a society that's gotten increasingly louder as technology has brought recorded audio into every part of our lives, from the boardroom to the bedroom to the bathroom.

"I notice (louder ads) in movie theaters and on radio too," said David Treadwell, 70, a freelance writer in Brunswick. "So I welcome anything which can smooth out the barrage of commercial appeals."

Message received, loud and clear.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:


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