Inundated With Commercials, Telemarketing Calls and Spam

Inundated With Commercials,
Telemarketing Calls
and Spam

© David Burton 2016

Commercials and Robocalls

The Problems

     Electronic communication – television, telephone and the internet - in these United States is being inundated with excessive commercials, unwanted telemarketing calls and spam. Our government is doing little to address the problem.


     Do you watch television? Of course you do! How much air time is devoted to the program and how much time is wasted on those endless, repetitive and largely boring commercials? I once decided to see how many commercials were consecutively aired. I was astonished to count 18 commercials, one right after another without a break. It’s been reported that, in 2013, there were “three-hour morning shows where the ads, teasers and bumpers consume as much as 35 minutes an hour.” [Emphasis mine]. (Ref. 1) I’ve tried channel surfing during commercial breaks and found that all I am doing is surfing from one commercial to another commercial. It even seems that all the TV stations have colluded to air their commercials at the exact same time so you can’t avoid being forced to watch the commercials. You can’t win - you can’t escape the commercials. What infuriates me still more is the fact that I am paying my cable provider an exorbitant monthly fee for my TV programming and I am ending up simply paying for more and more commercials and less and less entertainment.

     The problem with excessive commercials is bad and the problem is growing. In 2009, the broadcast networks averaged nearly 13.42 minutes of commercial time per hour. In 2013, that figure grew to 14.25 minutes. The growth has been even more significant on cable television. In 2009, cable networks averaged 14.45 minutes per hour. In 2013, the average grew to 15.63 minutes.[2] Here in 2016, it’s likely we are getting 16 or more minutes of commercials per hour on cable TV. These days it seems more and more like there are TV channels which simply run commercials that are occasionally interrupted with programs.

     TV commercials are more and more dominating the majority of TV channels. “{B}ecause of these excessive commercials, they have taken one of America’s favorite pastimes, and turned it into a nightmare.
     “No matter what channel you switch to, there is a seventy percent chance it will be at a commercial, or be going to commercial within sixty seconds. . . .
      - - -
     “{What} about the drug {commercials that, in 10 seconds, tell} the potential benefits of their product, but then come the {90 seconds of} negatives . . . Shouldn’t that be your doctors job . . . ?
     “{Then there’s the ambulance chasers’ commercials} where the lawyer from ‘Do We, Cheat UM, and How’, tells us that if we have ever had this happen to us, call their law office immediately, to join their class action suit.
      - - -
    ”. . . We are paying a lot of money to get television into our homes, and I don’t appreciate them using my living room, as their billboard to show an endless amount of annoying commercials.” [Emphasis mine] (Ref. 3)

     Even the supposedly commercial-free publicly funded stations now tell us who is sponsoring their “commercial-free” programs and contributing funds to keep their programming going. Enough is enough – let’s g et back to content without so much selling. “The early promise of cable TV was that, in exchange for paying for TV, we'd be spared the commercials and get a wider variety of quality programming. But that never happened. Not only do the cable-only channels show ads, they show lots of ads. Classic reruns and movies are cut beyond recognition to make room for more ads than can possibly be sold, with the void filled by endless station self-promos. Even HBO runs ads - infomercials disguised as 'Making of' shows for current movies. Cable operators should pay us for every home shopping channel they carry. Those channels earn them a profit end exclude other more valuable programming.” {Ref. 4)


     The phone rings – you pick it up and there is someone (usually a recorded message) telling you that you can reduce the interest charge on your credit card(s), or you can refinance your mortgage at lower rates, or if you switch utility provider you can lower your electric bill.

     I long ago signed up with the government’s Do Not Call Registry (DNC), but doing so did little or nothing to stop the flood of telemarketing robocalls that come to my phone each and every day. The "Do Not Call Registry” established by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 2003 is not working. The number of complaints about telemarketers have climbed in just about every year since 2003 and, as of 2012, reached a then all-time high of almost 4 million.[5]

     The FTC has been totally ineffective, either because of incompetency or because they don’t have the legal weapons they need to get the job done. As of 2014, “the FTC {had} only taken action against 600 illegal telemarketers since the list’s inception in 2003.” [Emphasis mine] (Ref. 6)

     I recently re-listed my phones on the Do Not Call Registry. Did that do any good? Absolutely not - I still get calls from parties that want to reduce my credit card interest rate, sweep my non-existent chimney, clean my rugs, get me a free cruise, get me an alarm in case I fall and can’t call anyone, etc., etc., etc.

     If you think you’re protected from telemarketers because you are using your cell phone, you’re wrong. And what’s worse is that these unwanted calls use up time on your “minutes” package. You have to pay for overages on these plans.

     Why doesn’t the Do Not Call Registry prevent robocalling? Even though it may be illegal for robocallers to contact someone who hasn’t given his or her express consent to receive such calls, many robocallers simply ignore the Do Not Call (DNC) list, betting that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and/or the FTC won’t come after them - and they are right. Just a handful of robocall operators can cheaply make millions of calls.

     For example, back in 2012, the FTC offered up to $50,000 to anyone who could help stop the infamous "Rachel from cardholder services" robocalls. At the time, it appeared they didn’t need that much help, as the agency filed complaints against five such operations based in Arizona and Florida. “The FTC chairman thundered that, “Rachel from Cardholder Services is public enemy number one.   . . . We’re cracking down on illegal robocalls by bringing law enforcement actions and pursuing technical solutions to the problem.” (Ref. 7) In the “Rachel From Cardholder Services” scam, “Rachel” dangles lower interest rates to get you to reveal your credit-card number. Today, some four years later 2016, I still typically receive several “Rachel From Cardholder Services” calls each week. So much for hoping that he FTC and the federal government would stop these robocalls. We can send man to the moon; we can provide technological wonders like virtual reality; we can have driverless automobiles and drones but we appear powerless to get rid of unwanted telemarketers and robocalls. Isn’t there something seriously wrong here?

The Internet

     You go online on your computer to check your e-mail and find that within the past 24 hours you have accumulated 27 new e-mails. As you go through these, you notice that most are from sites you’ve never heard of. They’re offering you all sorts of deals, including beautiful Russian brides. Some of them claim to allow you to “unsubscribe” so that you won’t receive future electronic junk mail. Sometimes, this works and sometimes it doesn’t. But, in the meantime, the unsolicited e-mails keep arriving and cluttering up your inbox and/or you spam file.

     Another concern arises from the threat of phishing, viruses and worse. Should I open unwanted e-mails in the hope that I can “unsubscribe” from their contact list or should I heed the warning, “Don’t open e-mails from anyone you don’t know”? Every so often I receive the message from some unfamiliar website that, “Your computer has been infected with a virus. If you don’t contact us immediately, your computer will blow up in your face, all your data will be lost, your children will all get infected with chickenpox and your teeth wall fall out!” I have long since learned that this is all a scam to sell you their unneeded and unwanted “technical support services”. But, in the meanwhile, they have locked up my computer so I have to shut it down, then restart my computer and reopen the programs that I was working on before these scammers pirated my computer.

Fixing the Problems

     And what is our government, e.g., the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) doing to stop all these corruptions of our electronic communication systems? Nothing that is obvious to me! The telephone “Do Not Call” registry has proven to be less than useless and an embarrassing joke for our government – it doesn’t work!

     I don’t accept the excuse that the technology isn’t up to finding the perpetrators of these abuses of our privacy. Don’t tell me that agencies like NSA, the FBI, the CIA, and a multitude of other alphabet-soup agencies, either singly, or combined can’t find and prosecute the perpetrator of these abuses. If our law enforcement and spook agencies can’t locate these abusers and put an end to their annoyances, then let’s hire people and organizations that can and will get the job done.

     The first step to ending these abuses rests in the hands of our legislators. They need to stop their preening and posturing in front of the TV cameras and the microphones and get serious about serving their constituencies. Let’s get our Senators and Representatives to do their part in cleaning up this mess. They can pass and/or update federal laws that will put an end to this gross misuse of our airwaves, the internet, and our venerable telephone system. They can put teeth into the laws that should be protecting us. Jail time and/or large financial penalties should be imposed for those who choose to ignore the laws. They can fund watchdog agencies based upon performance, i.e. end the abuses or lose funding. They can defund and terminate agencies that don’t do the work they are tasked to do. If our government agencies aren’t up to meeting the challenge, then farm the work out to the private sector. Again, fund these private enterprises on the basis of performance. Financial incentives have historically worked wonders in America’s free enterprise system.

     To end the TV commercial blizzard, we need our legislators to pass laws that limit the amount of commercials allowed during a given span of air time. Let’s have legislation passed that allows medical products to be advertised without the need for the plethora of disclaimers about the harmful side effect of the medicines. Let’s leave that information to a discussion between the patient and the doctor who prescribe the medications. How about a law that requires the ambulance chasers to disclose what percentage of people are harmed by the products and companies they are hounding with class action lawsuits? Let’s have these law firms acknowledge when 10,000 people are helped by a supposedly defective product for each person who suffers adverse side effects. And, more importantly, let’s reform our tort law system to reduce or eliminate those frivolous lawsuits so that only those grossly and blatantly negligent can be sued. It’s high time we stopped allowing baseless law suits simply because the defendants have “deep pockets” and “that’s where the money is.” One reason drug costs and medical care in the United States are so high is the very real threat of lawsuits against health care providers and drug companies. We urgently need a shield law to stop this abuse of our legal system that costs everyone except the lawyers and the few who win enormous settlements in our overburdened courts.

     I want the telemarketers who blatantly ignore the Do Not Call Registry to face very significant fines and/or jail time. No law should be promulgated that cannot be or is not enforced! I don’t want to keep hearing about how hard it is to catch and/or prosecute the miscreants who thumb their noses at the law, our lawmakers and the federal agencies that are supposed to protect you and me from these predators.


  1. "Commercial Creep"—I Hate Commercials and You Should Too, Stuart Fischoff Ph.D., Psychology Today,
    21 February 2013.
  2. TV networks load up on commercials, Joe Flint, Los Angeles Times, 12 May 2014.
  3. Too Many Tv Commercials,, Accessed 27 November 2016.
  4. What's wrong with Television, Bill O’Reilly,, Accessed 10 June 2015.
  5. Fighting Telemarketers: When Do-Not-Call List Fails, These Strategies Work, Alan Farnham, abc NEWS,
    21 January 2014.
  6. Does It Feel Like The ‘Do Not Call’ List Isn’t Working? This May Be Why, CBS San Francisco,
    20 November 2014.
  7. FTC Declares Rachel From Cardholder Services 'Enemy Number 1'; Files Complaints Against Five Scammy Robocollers, Mike Masnick,, 1 November 2012.


  8 December 2016 {Article 274; Whatever_52}    
Go back to the top of the page