Good Question: Are the commercials louder than programs?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — What’s the deal with the difference in volume between the TV program and some commercials? It’s a question we get a lot and have answered before.

A viewer wrote to us saying: “The TV commercials are still very much louder than the programs. We have to mute them because they are so loud. Is there any way that the station can adjust the volume of the commercials to be at least the same level as the program? …Can you find out why this is still happening?”

I went to our engineers, who explained that TV stations like us can control the volume levels of our programs but not the commercials. Those levels are set before commercials get to us.

There is a law meant to regulate this called the Calm Act and it was passed by Congress in 2010. We also have a system in place to monitor and record our volume levels, so they don’t violate the law.

The Calm Act requires commercial noise levels to be about the same as the program. Since it passed, it has been criticized by viewers who say it’s not being enforced.

In May 2022, another law was introduced addressing these complaints. It’s called the Calm Modernization Act. It applies to streaming services and also modifies the enforcement of the original law.

The Federal Communications Commission is responsible for enforcement. Right now, the FCC uses a complaint-driven enforcement process. If the Calm Modernization Act passes, there would be a greater penalty from the FCC for violations.

If you have a good question, send it to us at