How to complain to the FCC about loud TV commercials

The FCC wants you to sound off if the latest TV commercial for beer or cellphones blows you out of your seat. Here's how to do it. Photo: FCC

SAN DIEGO, December 26, 2012 –  Have you noticed any difference in TV commercials the last week or so? Assuming you don’t zip past them with your DVR, mute them, or channel surf the second one comes on.

The CALM Act took effect as of Thursday, December 13. The long-awaited “Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act” passed by Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama two years ago in December 2010. The Federal Communications Commission approved rules to implement the law a year later in December 2011, and then gave all of the players involved one year to get on board before it took effect.

“Loud TV commercials have been among the most common consumer complaints to the FCC for decades now,” Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D –Rhode Island), a sponsor of the bill, said at a news conference. “While this is a small issue compared to the big challenges facing our nation, it is an unnecessary annoyance in the daily lives of many Americans, and I’m glad to have done something about it.”

Industry groups were solidly behind the legislation including the National Association of Broadcasters and the National Cable & Telecommunications Association. Why? Because loud TV commercials made viewers seek relief with their remotes, shutting them down, and often changing channel which meant programmers were losing an audience.

But say you find yourself blasted by the latest after-Christmas sales ads on the air, and think “Isn’t there a law against that now?” Yes, but violations must be reported by you, the viewer. As a Communities public service, we are happy to fill you in on what you need to know to report CALM Act violations and make these new regs stick.

The CALM Act requires TV stations, cable operators, satellite TV operators and pay TV providers to limit a commercial’s average volume to that of the programming that it accompanies.

Note the use of the word “average.” The FCC reminds the public that not all “loud” commercials are violations. While the overall or average volume of the commercial should be no louder than the regular programming, it may still have “louder” and “quieter” moments – say a movie ad in which something blows up, or there is a dramatic jingle sting. So bear in mind while some commercials may sound “too loud” to you, they might still comply with the law.

But if most of the commercial sounds louder to you than the program before or after it airs, the FCC encourages you to report it.

How to Report a CALM Act Violation

The easiest way to file a loud commercial complaint is by using the FCC’s online complaint form at

To use the form, click on the Complaint Type button “Broadcast (TV and Radio), Cable, and Satellite Issues,” and then click on the Category button “Loud Commercials.” This will take you to the “Form 2000G - Loud Commercial Complaint” form. Fill out the form and click on “Complete the form” to submit your complaint to the FCC.

The “Loud Commercial Complaint” form asks for information, including the date and time you saw the commercial, the name of the program you were watching and which TV station or pay TV provider transmitted the commercial. It’s a lot of information, but it is necessary to help the FCC correctly identify the offending commercial from among the tens of thousands of commercials aired every day.

You can also call the FCC’s Consumer Call Center at 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322) (voice) or 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322) for TTY.

You can fax a complaint to 1-866-418-0232, or mail a letter (how quaint) to:

Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, SW, Washington, DC 20554.

Do A&E promos with Abby of “Dance Moms” screaming when she loses it count as CALM Act violations? Give me a form. 


Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. Read more Media Migraine in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google+


Copyright © 2012 by Falcon Valley Group


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Gayle Falkenthal

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, MS, APR, is President of the Falcon Valley Group, a San Diego based communications consulting firm. Falkenthal is a veteran award winning broadcast and print journalist, editor, producer, talk host and commentator. She is an instructor at National University in San Diego, and previously taught in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University.


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