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Senate: Turn down volume on TV commercials

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Legislation to turn down the volume on those loud TV commercials that send couch potatoes diving for their remote controls looks like it’ll soon become law.

The Senate unanimously passed a bill to require television stations and cable companies to keep commercials at the same volume as the programs they interrupt.

The House has passed similar legislation. Before it can become law, minor differences between the two versions have to be worked out when Congress returns to Washington after the Nov. 2 election.

Ever since television caught on in the 1950s, the Federal Communication Commission has been getting complaints about blaring commercials. But the FCC concluded in 1984 there was no fair way to write regulations controlling the “apparent loudness” of commercials. So it hasn’t been regulating them.

The legislation, sponsored by Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., requires the FCC to adopt those recommendations as regulations within a year and begin enforcing them a year later. Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., is the driving force behind the bill in the House.

Sen. Charles Schumer, a co-sponsor, said it’s time to stop the use of loud commercials to startle viewers into paying attention. “TV viewers should be able to watch their favorite programs without fear of losing their hearing when the show goes to a commercial,” he said.