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Broadcasters promise plan to quiet TV ads by September

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers stepped aside Thursday and agreed to let broadcasters come up with a system for toning down loud TV ads.

However, they warned that if the broadcasters didn't tone down their act, they'd reintroduce a bill next year to make the Federal Communications Commission turn down the volume on loud commercials.

Industry leaders said they'd reach an agreement by September on what David Donovan, president of the Association for Maximum Service Television, called "recommended practice" for the sound levels of shows and ads.

"We get it," Donovan said of the loud ad complaints. "As a matter of pure economics, we do not want to lose viewers."

Donavan, whose Washington-based association lobbies on technical matters, said he was confident that broadcasters would abide by the new standards.

Broadcasters contend that the full conversion to digital TV, which goes into effect Friday, will make it easier to even out volume levels. Many noise complaints, in their view, stem from the difference between the sound levels of programs and commercials.

The industry has been working on its plan since April 2007, Donovan told the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet.

The FCC has been investigating loud ads since the 1960s, he added, and the industry-wide panel "has resolved more issues in two years than the government has in decades."

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., who's twice introduced a bill to have the FCC regulate the loudness of ads, was silent during the hearing and left immediately afterward.

At least one lawmaker yielded because he felt regulation wouldn't work without the broadcasters' technical expertise.

"The legislation might pass but nothing's going to happen without you folks," said Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., the subcommittee's senior Republican.


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