The FCC: “Let us be your remote.”

On Tuesday December 13th, the FCC approved new rules which would require all television commercials to be broadcast at the same average volume of the program they punctuate. Those TV providers who do not comply will face fines. Since 2008, the FCC has received close to 6000 complaints for loud commercials, which caused FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to state affirmatively, “This is an issue people care about.”

First, what kind of person does it take to call the Federal Communications Commission over a commercial that they feel is too loud? Ignoring the fact that 6000 complaints over the course three years is a hardly a blip on the radar in country where 99% of the nation’s households have TV’s according to the FCC’s own numbers, it is hard to imagine an individual of such a childish mentality that they run to the government to control the volume for them. I say that not as an ad hominem, but as the best analogy I can muster for someone unable to tolerate a few seconds of discomfort or unable to press the mute button on their remotes.

That having been said, the FCC itself gives several reasons why this should be a non-issue: “More television receivers are now equipped with circuits that are designed to stabilize loudness differences between programs and commercials… The ‘Mute’ button on TV remote controls is also useful to ‘blank’ excessively loud audio. Manually controlling volume levels with the remote control remains the simplest approach to reducing excessive volume levels.”

With all these alternatives to federal regulation of volume control, what exactly has compelled public officials to take this paternalistic step into our living rooms? When it comes to progressive politicians, if there is no real problem, it never fails that they will be there to create one.

In December 2010 as Tea Party-backed candidates set to retake control of the House, Congress succeeded in passing the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (notice the “soothing” acronym the first four words produce).  The bill, an almost unprecedented 408 words long compared to the library’s worth of pages which modern congressional legislation usually contains, passed the Senate unanimously – it passed the House by a voice vote (ironically, a type of vote in which the loudest side wins). Thus, Congress again demonstrated its severe philosophic ineptitude and its inability to relate to the actual interests of the American people (insofar as those interests are ethical).

Regardless of whether one thinks television advertisements are too loud or not, the fact that some argued for the government to involve itself in such a trivial matter of their lives has very sobering implications – the fact that the government acquiesced is even more disconcerting. People should not be complacent with the government regulating what comes out of their TV in any capacity – protecting intellectual property notwithstanding. This kind of legislation is only an extension of the same philosophy Fmr. Senator John Corzine exhibits when he argues for more federal oversight in the financial industry while simultaneously “losing track” of $1.2 in MF Global customer funds – “I do not want to handle it myself, so I want someone to observe the problem and make sure it gets fixed for me.”

If one were to take a poll of the most important issues to Americans and place “the volume of TV commercials” on the list of choices which included our astronomical debt, our crippling level of unemployment, and increasing threats from abroad, this writer is fairly certain that the results would be noticeably contrary to the statement by Chairman Genachowski that “this is an issue people care about.” In any case, this move by an agency which should not exist in the first place deserves the greatest level of derision one can muster. I reject soundness of the arguments that led to this regulation, and I emphatically reject the soundness of the same that led to the creation of the FCC itself.


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