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Opinion

Bipartisan agreement: Ads are too loud!

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Never mind wars, deficits, the fate of Fannie Mae or the future of Bush-era tax cuts. Congress has at last tackled an issue that really matters: the maddening loudness of TV commercials.

The Commercial Advertising Loudness Mitigation Act - yes, that's CALM for short - sailed through both houses en route to the White House, where President Barack Obama is likely to sign it into law. The bill will require TV advertisers to make sure their commercials aren't any louder than regular TV programming.

TV commercials have long been noticeably louder than programs, prompting millions of complaints to the Federal Communications Commission. Yet the CALM Act is also a case study in the difficulty of regulating technology. Years of scientific inquiry have gone into setting international standards for the loudness of commercials - and now that Congress has acted, technology has made commercials easy to avoid. Two in five households have digital recording devices, which enable viewers to skip them. And of course, there's always the mute button.

At least Washington isn't entirely deaf to the voters. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Anna Eshoo, told a reporter: "If I'd saved 50 million children from some malady, people would not have the interest that they have in this." hN

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