Fed up with loud TV commercials? CRTC wants to hear about it

Originally published in the Vancouver Sun on February 17th 2011. To go to the Vancouver Sun website please click here

A Conservative MP introduced a private member’s bill Thursday to force advertisers to turn down the volume on loud television commercials. A Conservative MP introduced a private member’s bill Thursday to force advertisers to turn down the volume on loud television commercials. Photograph by: Handout, Ottawa Citizen

Sick of braying TV pitchmen puncturing your eardrums? Speak up — the CRTC wants to hear from you.

Canada’s broadcasting regulator says it’s committed to dealing with the concerns Canadians have with loud TV commercials and has asked viewers to share their recommendations to resolve the issue just a week after a Conservative MP introduced a private member’s bill that would force advertisers to turn down the volume.

Konrad von Finckenstein, chairman of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, launched a two-month-long public consultation Thursday to ask Canadians about any technical and regulatory measures that should be made.

“Loud ads on television can disrupt an otherwise enjoyable program and are a source of significance annoyance for Canadians. Viewers should not have to adjust the volume at every commercial break, and we will work with the broadcasting industry to find an acceptable solution,” he said in a statement.

In 2009, the Advanced Television Systems Committee, which sets standards for North American broadcasters, recommended that its members establish a target volume, which gave the CRTC a push to investigate potential regulations, the statement read. The broadcasting watchdog is also considering how long it would take to implement changes.

Canadians and industry officials who wish to share their thoughts have until April 18 to fill out an online form on the CRTC website or to mail a letter to its office in Quebec.

Click here to read the call for comments on the CRTC website

A CRTC spokesperson told Postmedia News Thursday that the television watchdog has received hundreds of complaints from fed-up Canadians over the years, so the issue has been on the organization’s radar. In 2010, the CRTC received 304 complaints about loud commercials. In 2009, there were 140 complaints and in 2008, 174 Canadians complained.

The spokesperson said that the organization’s decision to create a public forum to share concerns and offer recommendations is not related to a new bill that was proposed last week.

Nina Grewal, MP for Fleetwood-Port Kells, introduced bill C-621, which would require broadcasters to make sure the volume of commercials is consistent with the programs they accompany.

“It’s a common complaint. You’re watching a program at a comfortable volume. The program breaks for a commercial and, suddenly, you’re jolted out of your seat by the loudness,” Grewal said.

“While it may seem a small irritant, it’s a daily stress that could and should be relieved from the shoulders of Canadians.”

MPs will discuss the bill in March.

While there are no laws in Canada to ensure programming and commercials are broadcast at a consistent volume, similar rules exist in both the United States and the United Kingdom. The U.S., for example, implemented its Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act — or its CALM Act — last year.