Unable to solve real problems, Congress takes on loud commercials

-By Chris Slavens

(Ed’s note: Welcome Chris Slavens as a new contributor to Publius Forum.)

With the unemployment rate at a depressing 9.5 percent, millions of Americans are stuck at home every day, unable to afford a tank of gas, left with no choice but to endure the injustices of daytime television. The Democrat-controlled Congress couldn’t care less about getting them back to work, but never fear; last week, it tackled a controversial issue that is at least as important as rising unemployment: the volume of television commercials.

The reader probably expects a punch line at this point, but it’s no joke. The Senate’s version of The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (The CALM Act) will require television stations and cable companies to broadcast commercials at the same volume as that of the programs they interrupt. The differences between the conflicting House and Senate versions of the legislation are expected to be worked out during the post-election “lame duck” session, in which Democrats who will have been rejected by their constituents will enact controversial legislation.

“TV viewers should be able to watch their favorite programs without fear of losing their hearing when the show goes to a commercial,” exaggerated Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), one of the bill’s co-sponsors. The legislation was pushed by Democrats, but enjoys bipartisan support—not one of the forty-one Republicans in the Senate voted against it.

One must wonder about the timing of the vote, as members of Congress are returning to their districts to campaign for reelection. “Don’t worry,” they will tell worried voters. “Sure, our anti-business regulations are destroying the economy, and we forced ObamaCare down your throats, but you’ll never have to be startled by a loud commercial again!”

What are they thinking?

Television is an extension of the political establishment’s propaganda division. Through news programs, reality shows, and even children’s cartoons, Americans are taught how to think and behave. Naturally, Democrats want the experience of watching television to be as comfortable as possible for viewers, lest they become fed up with such annoyances as overly-loud commercials and turn to books for entertainment, or, heaven forbid, right-leaning talk radio for news.

In a free market, a bright mind would recognize that loud commercials annoy viewers, and see a business opportunity. Perhaps one television network would voluntarily limit the volume of its commercials, and attract more viewers. Or a commercial volume limiting device could be developed and marketed to couch potatoes.

But Democrats live in a strange world of central government planning, in which they are mentally incapable of imagining that free enterprise could solve a problem. Their knee-jerk reaction to even the slightest inconvenience is to propose a new law. In this case, the “problem” of loud commercials will be solved with new volume regulations, to be enforced by the Federal Communications Commission.

The most ludicrous part of this story is not that Democrats support the legislation; they are expected to unnecessarily interfere in the private sector and overreach their constitutional authority. Minding the business of others comes as naturally to Democrats as urinating on fire hydrants comes to dogs—it’s more a matter of instinct than of conscious choice.

However, Republicans are supposed to favor free enterprise. They are expected to stand between government and the private sector. There has been much speculation about what effect, if any, the growing tea party movement will have on the GOP; the fact that not one Republican Senator opposes government regulation of the volume of television commercials indicates that, amazingly, they just don’t get it.

If the members of Congress can hear loud commercials and decide to do something about them, why can’t they hear the voice of the American people?
Chris Slavens is a libertarian columnist. He lives in Delaware. He can be reached at chrisslavens@gmail.com.

Comments are closed.

Copyright Publius Forum 2001