That's one small step for Congress, one giant leap for ... people who watch TV.
In case you haven't, uh, heard, the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, better known as the CALM Act, went into effect last week.
What's that, you say? Or should it be: What's that you say? You know, in case someone is reading this to you while the television blares in the background. (And isn't English-language punctuation a wonderful and mysterious thing?)
But I digress. The CALM Act is a new federal law aimed at lowering the volume of TV commercials. Meaning you'll no longer need to have the remote at the ready, finger poised over the mute button, every time a commercial comes on.
Which is good news, right? Well, yes, but …
First of all, even the act's supporters (the CALMERS?) are quite, well, yes, calm about their baby:
"This is clearly not the biggest thing happening in Washington. But it is one less nuisance," Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), a sponsor, said at a Capitol Hill gathering to celebrate the law's implementation.
And, proving that problems aren't necessarily problems unless they happen to the folks in Washington, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Menlo Park) gave this explanation for the act's birth:
Eshoo came up with the idea after a loud commercial interrupted a family dinner.
After asking her brother-in-law to do something about the volume, Eshoo recalled, he turned to her and said, "Well, you're the congresswoman. Why don't you do something about it?"
(To which some might say: Hey, congresswoman, we've got this "fiscal cliff" coming up, if you're not too busy.)
Still, one problem with CALM may be that it's a day late. After all, with TiVo and the Hopper and their ilk, does anyone actually watch TV commercials anymore? You get the feeling this is like the folks who solved the horse manure problem — just as the Model T came along. Never heard of them, you say? Well, just Google "From Horse Power to Horsepower by Eric Morris." (Ah, the Google — now that's real progress!)
The other problem with CALM is, as always, baby boomers.
First, as everyone knows, they complain about everything, and it's always "me, me, me." So they complained for years about loud TV commercials, and now someone has gone and done something about it. But will that make boomers happy? Don't count on it.
Why? Because they're getting old. So now, just as they're getting hard of hearing, the nanny state has gone and made things quieter. And the boomers won't be able to hear the Viagra commercials, and that will lead to more frustrated husbands and wives, and more resentment of Hugh Hefner, who's 86 but is marrying a 26-year-old, and … well, you get the picture. In high-definition surround sound, probably.
Finally, though, there's this little Achilles' heel with CALM:
The Federal Communications Commission, which has called loud TV commercials "one of the most persistent problems of the television age," said it will rely on consumer complaints to monitor industry compliance.
To which I think the only reasonable response is: