One Small Step Towards CALMing Corporate Brainwashing

Are corporations people? Do they have free speech rights? Would America be better off to ditch this notion and adopt the more international approach to broadcasting where companies are limited in how far they can go to and precisely how they convince people to buy things?

What is often lost in the American idealism of the “free” market is that commercials are little more than glorified brainwashing.  They try to convince people to buy things they don’t need to fill the holes in their lives, and this culture of consumerism is bad for the environment, bad for the economy, and ultimately bad for the sanity of people themselves.

The corporate oligarchy that ultimately pulls the levers of power in the United States doesn’t care. They are looking at one thing and one thing only: profit. To them, you are nothing but blind sheep, there to work harder to give them more, to create the wealth that the rich enjoy. You are nothing but a consumer in their eyes.

To this end, they advertise. They advertise on billboards. They advertise on the radio. They advertise on the internet. They advertise on buses, and on clothing, and in movies, and on television. They need to convince you that you can just finally feel whole as a person once you get that new smart phone with the hundred dollar monthly plan, once you get that overpriced house, once you get that new car, once you get that HD television. Your life will be complete, and the want will subside. They lie.

Television Commercials
In their lust to manipulate you into sacrificing more, they have pushed their brainwashing to epic levels. According to an analysis done, by the year 2020, 50% of television time will be nothing but commercials. The times listed below can be verified on Hulu.

1952 – 13 percent (8 minutes per hour)
1958 – 13 percent
1964 – 18 percent
1977 – 18 percent
1994 – 24 percent
2004 – 30 percent
2010 – 32 percent

Highbeam reports, If you are talking about prime-time, commercial broadcast television, an hour usually includes about 42 minutes of program and 18 minutes of commercials and promotional items. The number can vary in other parts of the day and on other program services; I’ve seen cable shows with about 20 minutes of commercials in an hour. And I am not counting a couple of other forms of advertising: graphics promoting other shows that fill part of the screen while you’re watching a program, and product placement, in which items are included in a program itself in exchange for a fee.

Advertising Withing Shows
This is just the overt advertising. Not content with direct messaging, the corporations have been rapidly inserting subtle advertising into the actual shows themselves. See that protagonist enjoying a refreshing swig of Coca-Cola after the chase scene? That’s intentional. It’s called ‘in-show brand appearances’ and has the exact same effect to convince you to use a product as a commercial does.

According to Marketing Charts“An average hour of monitored prime-time US network TV programming in Q408 contained 7:59 of in-show brand appearances and 13:52 of network commercial messages, for a combined total of 21:51 of marketing content. The combined load of brand appearances and network ad messages in late night shows is 29:34 per hour, or 49% of total content time. “

As it stands, the average commercial time during an hour of American television amounts to 36%.

Realizing years ago that people were starting to pay less attention to the blatant brainwashing during commercial breaks, new strategies began to be employed. Commercial movie channels such as USA and TNT have become masters at the bait and switch strategy, whereby they begin a powerful movie with very few advertisement, then towards the end begin to inundate the viewer with messages, knowing they are hooked and want to finish the show.

Unlike most places in the world where commercial breaks take place at the top or half way point of the hour, and in one block, in American television, the commercial times began to be broken up into different segment breaks. The duration of these breaks is variable, as is the interval between them, so you can never be certain when the show is coming back on. To try to steer you into watching the commercials even further, some shows (especially late night talk shows) return for 5 seconds, then go right back into commercials.

Perhaps the greatest annoyance of these commercials is the volume projected however. No longer limited to monster truck rallies and used car commercials, now nearly every advertisement has increased it’s decibel level far beyond what the average is during the TV show. The annoyance of the brainwashing was beginning to become a little too transparent, it was giving the industry increasingly bad press and loss of receptiveness.

The FCC does not have the power to regulate the volume of programs or commercials, but offers a list of equipment ideas to limit the loudness.  The advertising industry suggested that consumers can buy volume regulators to adjust the sound, but as reported by the Seattle Times,  “consumer advocates say they shouldn’t have to invest in more equipment.”

The US Congress has just passed the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act. CALM has been on the table for 2 years, but never made it through the full Congress until yesterday. The Senate bill (S.2847) was sponsored by Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse [D-RI], and was cosponsored by Sherrod Brown [D-OH], Tim Johnson [D-SD], Claire McCaskill [D-MO], Patty Murray [D-WA], Bill Nelson [D-FL], John Rockefeller [D-WV], and Charles Schumer [D-NY]. The House version (H.R.1084) show that was based on the Senate-passed version was sponsored by Rep. Anna Eshoo [D-CA14] and had 90 cosponsors (1 of which was a Republican, Sue Myrick [R-NC9]).

The CALM Act will now head to President Obama for his expected signature. CALM requires the FCC to regulate the television industry within a year, and begin enforcing them a year later (by the end of 2012).

Reactions from around the net
[CALM requires] that the FCC ban the decades-old practice by which broadcasters pump up the volume on ads so they are much, much louder than the programs they sponsor. It’s very attention-getting, which is the idea. It’s also extremely annoying.

Under the law, the FCC will have to make stations adhere to internationally accepted standards of television advertisement volumes. That will be music to the ears of people who watch TV the old-fashioned way — without a DVR to fast-forward through ads or an HDTV that can automatically calibrate the volume based on source material

The legislation would force the industry to abide by its own recommendations for audio standards as devised a year ago by the Advanced Television Systems Committee, an organization of broadcasters.
Dick O’Brien, director of government relations at the American Association of Advertising Agencies, said his group supports the bill because “we fully understand that advertising works best when it engages consumers, not alienates them.”

[The] bill originally prescribed that television advertisements could be no louder than the average maximum loudness of the programs they accompany. [Rep. Eshoo] changed her bill to instead adopt guidelines developed by the TV industry, which she said will accomplish the same goal.
Huffington Post

This is a step in the right direction towards stopping this onslaught of annoying advertising, albeit a small step. As the case with health care reform and Wall St. reform, the stronger measures were compromised and far weaker industry recommendations were adopted. Subliminal messaging was denounced as “contrary to the public interest” and “intended to be deceptive” in 1974. The volume of advertising will be restricted in 2012. With some luck, perhaps we can start compelling advertisers to start telling the truth in another 38 years by 2050.


4 Responses to One Small Step Towards CALMing Corporate Brainwashing

  1. rj December 3, 2010 at 7:21 am

    Yea just what we need more regulations, what the hell is wrong with taking responsibility for your own actions, including what to spend your own money on.
    I dont base my purchases on advertising, a rational thinking adult should make their own decisions based on their needs and wants, not what some big brother allows them to see, hear or be shown.
    The main problem is in todays cradle to grave take care of me mentality is that many cannot make rational decisions because they have big brother govt taking care of them, making decisions, telling them what they need to do.
    Govt regulations never fail to increase and eventually strangle. Rarely in the history of this country have govt regulations ever been cut, even when they have outlived their usefulness.
    Face it there is no need for govt to run every aspect of anyone’s life or business and once a toehold is established it only grows untill it takes over.
    This country is founded in the premise of freedom AND responsibility. Unfortunately too many think freedom means no responsibility.

    • Ole Ole Olson December 3, 2010 at 1:08 pm

      I think you are vastly underestimating the power of brainwashing rj. Remember those American soldiers who suddenly denounced the US as a capitalist tyrant after being captured in Korea? Ill grant you that commercial brainwashing is far more subtle than that, but it has a profound effect on people’s behavioral patterns, even with intelligent, educated folk who can resist it better.

      • rj December 3, 2010 at 1:41 pm

        advertising = brainwashing I dont think so,

        real brainwashing takes way more than that, think sleep depravation, controlling of diet to enhance the ability to control thought process through nutrional depravation, even drugs to alter mind,

        Rationalization that my or your actions can only be controlled through govt intervention of advertisers use of noise level during commercials is a reach.

        As for prisoners of war repeating what their captors want them to say, either successful brainwashing or simply desire to live.

        In viet nam prisoners were often given to read commie propaganda on video while they were blinking morse code for come and get us the fuk out of here….

    • b-t December 3, 2010 at 7:20 pm

      ”a rational thinking adult”

      A rational thinking adult can recognize those subliminal messages and simply keep walking without putting out wallet. Whole economy system exists on irrationality and irrational people, their blind impulses and lack of rationality. Example, clothes for babies. What on earth happens to mothers who spend 30-40-150+ $ on t-shirts which their child wear only once? Eventually 2 or 3 times.
      It’s called advertising, shiny happy people who keeps smiling and telling to you that you’ll be at least as happy as they are if you buy this or that. Unfortunately, there’s not too many rational persons. That’s why we need someone who will say…loud and clear: ”Cut that crap”. Sad thing is, when comes to election time, dollars from XY ltd. is far more important that mentally healthy society.

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