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Publisher's Letter

Loud television commercials will continue to be annoying

Most people find TV advertising annoying. That annoyance may range from complete intolerance, to the point where the sound must be muted every time an advert comes on, to more occasional annoyance with advertising which is extremely puerile, banal or just offensive. I have to admit though, there are times when an advert flashes up and I want to hear what it is about, only to find that someone else in the room has a trigger finger on the remote and has already muted it or flicked to another channel. Now that is annoying!

However, a more common reason for wanting to mute the sound is that the commercials are simply too loud and jarring. This happens all too often and is not confined to the commercial channels; SBS and ABC can be equally guilty.

Now all those aggrieved viewers will be interested to know that the problem is not confined to Australia but is worldwide. Apparently, the pressures of commerce universally cause advertisers or TV networks to try and force their messages upon the viewers. So a recent press release from the American Federal Communications Commission (FCC) may come as refreshing news.

Responding to years of complaints that the volume on commercials was much louder than that of the sponsored TV programs, the FCC has passed the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act. What a mouthful! This is intended to make sure that the sound levels are the same for commercials, news and entertainment programming. The FCC said that cable and satellite TV companies, as well as local broadcasters, will have to make sure that the volume on commercials is kept in check. The rules will come into effect in December 2012.

Would such legislation work in Australia? I am thinking, “Probably not.” While advertising is annoying I don’t think I would be keen to see the Federal Government legislate to this effect. The appropriate regulating body would no doubt be the ACMA (Australian Communications & Media Authority) and they already have evidently too much to do so they are not likely to enforce a new set of regulations. Besides, why do we need possibly hundreds of pages of government bureacratese pontificating about a problem that most viewers have pretty much solved? They simply kill the channel with the remote – often with malice aforethought.

In fact, when TV broadcasters wind up the wick on commercials they are doing themselves no good at all and are giving viewers more reasons to go elsewhere for their entertainment. Most people I know are watching less and less TV as the years go by.

The stupid part about this is that the advertising agencies and their clients must already know that loud commercials are annoying – or at least those for competing products are! So why compound the problem when pushing their own products? I could argue also that most commercials are repeated so often that they inevitably all become annoying and irrelevant anyway, no matter what the message. And the more annoying they are, the more counter-effective they become.

So next time you are particularly annoyed by the loudness of a TV commercial, don’t think that perhaps there “oughta be a law!” We all should realise that when government legislates against some practice, it rarely has the positive outcome that was intended and often has many unintended consequences.

I think the quiet and unspoken revolt is far more effective. If the station keeps broadcasting loud commercials, turn the TV off. Then go read a book or magazine.

Leo Simpson

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