Pop Culture: Legislation to reduce TV commercials' volume

Dennis Volkert

Last week, the U.S. Senate voted to turn down the volume of TV commercials so that it would match the sound level of  TV programs.

This week, Frito-Lay announced it would discontinue most of its biodegradable SunChips bags because consumers found them too noisy.

It’s a couch potato double-whammy.

Most of us are familiar with the frequent sound level inconsistency between TV programs and commercials. You’re sitting there, watching “How I?Met Your Two and Half Men,” then comes a commercial break.


According to an Associated?Press?story, viewers have been annoyed by the volume discrepancy for years.

“Ever since television caught on in the 1950s, the Federal Communication Commission has been getting complaints about blaring commercials.”

You’re probably thinking, “And it took this long before anybody did anything about it? Wasn’t anyone listening?”

Maybe every time a viewer brought it up, somebody was opening a bag of SunChips?

Industry experts say adjusting television volume levels is complex because shows and ads come from different sources.

So the goal of Congressional legislation may not be pie-in-the-sky, but it certainly is cake-on-the-ceiling.

As for the SunChips situation, here’s an amusing aside: The bags were introduced last year to draw attention to environmentalism — they’re made from plant material, not plastic. By attempting to curtail one pollution problem, it caused another:?excessive noise.

If you think living near an airport is a nerve-smashing ordeal,?try finishing the new Danielle Steel book in the break room at work while someone at your table indulges in multigrain crinkling.

In the end, Frito-Lay decided peacefulness trumped compostable products.

“We need to listen to our consumers,” Frito-Lay spokeswoman Aurora Gonzalez said. “We clearly heard their feedback.”

Unfortunately, she made that statement during a TV commercial, and nobody heard her say it.

Dennis Volkert is features editor at the Sturgis Journal. Contact him at