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back to article FCC (finally) cracks down on BLARING! TV! ADS!

The US Federal Communications Commission has issued rules requiring television broadcasters and cable and satellite providers to maintain constant volume levels for programs and commercials. The rules were issued persuant to the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, better known as the CALM Act, which has been …

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Vic
Silver badge

And, for once, it should be enforced

I've spent the last six months sat next to a DSP engineer who was writing code to measure the average[1] levels on transmissions and adjust the gain to ensure the ads aren't too loud.

Sometimes, encoder manufacturers get things right.

Vic.

[1] "Average" is actually quote hard to define; each advert is a separate item, and the repeats between adverts are their own thing. But the overall result of Huw's work seems to be a good thing.

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Anonymous Coward

Can somebody do the techy stuff and determine (or provide a link) if this will actually work, or if there are simple techniques around it. Or even worse, if there are any loopholes cut in to exempt things like "political announcements".

I know the "audio levelling" is most media players is pretty crap, so can't say I'm optimistic.

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Bronze badge

simple techniques around it

While my knowledge of DSP (digital signal processing) is rudimentary, I do remember from back in the 'analog days', one way around "it" was to screw with the equalization. One way to do that was to boost the high frequencies, making them seem "louder".

You can be sure that the people who create adverts will figure a way around this. After all, the sole purpose of a `commercial` is to get your attention.

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Happy

I had a better solution ...

After years of paying for channels I didn't watch and didn't want, listening to ever increasingly loud and obnoxious commercials, and having low quality low IQ entertainment foistered upon me, solved the problem. I abandoned TV all together. Never been better.

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Happy

Oddly enough ...

The vast majority of DVD's and VHS recording are all recorded at the same level ... so just how hard can this be to implement?

Maybe if they sort this out I'll start watching TV again but don't hold your breath.

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@Andrew Foster

Same here. The television in my personal living space hasn't been plugged in for over a decade. I haven't missed it a bit.

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Pint

same here

My television was hardly used at all. So I did the same. The little that I do watch is only available online and, cough.. has no commercials cough..

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WTF is a 'personal living space'?

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Thumb Up

An especially attractive option in the UK, ever since I got my own place, I've been able to ignore the increasingly stern begging letters from TVL.

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Happy

Seems to be a growing preference

The only reason I have a TV is for the HDMI and computer monitor ports. I spend enough money on TV I'll probably never watch with the still-in-the-wrapper DVD collection growing in my cupboard.

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Anonymous Coward

"WTF is a 'personal living space'?"

I think it's euphemism for being made to go live in the shed.

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Unhappy

Almost the same here

But after years of happiness without TV, the German government decided to change the rules and replace the public TV fees with a household fee.

So, after years of NOT paying for channels I didn't watch and didn't want ... I will have the privilege to pay for low quality low IQ entertainment again in 2013.

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@HipposRule

In my case, "personal living space" is the main house here at the ranch. The field hands and the foreman have access to TV (payed for by myself; I have no idea how much time they waste during their off hours glued to the tube). There are also TVs in the "clubhouse" and the viewing room over the indoor arena, but they are mostly used to review horses & riders in action, as a training aide.

The house TV itself resides next to the front door. It pretty much acts as a key-hanger, hat-stand, dog lead depository, snail-mail/bill holder, sunglasses stand, telephone stand, and the like. I should probably get rid of it, but then I'd need to replace it with a similarly sized bit of kit to do the same job ... and there's the odd chance that I might want to plug it in and watch something someday.

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Angel

About time!

Currently the way FIOS is in my house normal TV volume is at level 56.

Now comes commercials and it sounds like volume is at 200.

I own a LG brand new TV

I also own a XBOX360 and a PS3 both gaming consoles and my ROKU device plays sound normally at volume 15 but FIOS TV normal is at level 56? No amount of resetting to facotry default is the NOT the issue and has nothing to do with my TV settings when all devices are at correct volume level 15 but FIOS needs to be boosted up to volume level 56?

The advertising industry has broken their trust with blaring commercial rude commercials.

But it is not just TV commercials but public access TV stations who do not know who to control loudness at all as if an amature is at the controls.

PASS THIS ASAP PLEASE!

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It didn't work over here!

We have a similar law in the UK which came into force on July 7 2008 but the broadcasters have found a way round it. They digitally compress the audio in adverts. This means the measurable volume is no higher than the program volume, but they sound much louder to the human ear, so we still end up turning the volume down when adverts come on. I'd like to bet the USA companies will do the same.

http://conversation.which.co.uk/technology/loud-tv-television-ad-advertisements-commercial/

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Vic
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> They digitally compress the audio in adverts

This will be coming to an end.

The new regulations measure integrated sound levels, so compression counts as gain.

Loud adverts are on their last legs. And not a moment too soon.

Vic.

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Alert

Mute button on TV remote = WIN.

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Anonymous Coward

That's great news. Do you have a source and timescale?

I actually bothered to complain to C4 a few years back, but was told 'nah, it's the same sound levels, you just think it's louder, so there!'

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Gold badge

Fast Forward button on the DVR = double win.

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Gold badge

It's not so much "digital" compression, but compression of the dynamic range of the audio signal.

So the loud peaks are reduced and the lower parts of the signal are boosted.

Most music is compressed like this now too so it sounds better or louder on rubbish audio systems (which appear to be the norm now).

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Thumb Down

Not that I watch TV any more but yeah it is still annoying here.

What is far worse though is when they repeat the same advert (or advert for an upcoming show) over and over again until you are so sick of seeing it it has the opposite effect to what they intended.

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Vic
Silver badge

> until you are so sick of seeing it it has the opposite effect to what they intended.

indeed.

I didn't watch the first few series of Spooks because I couldn't abide that advert.

Then I found out it had Keeley Hawes in it. Perhaps I'll go get the DVD...

Vic.

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Anonymous Coward

Heard it before - the problem is *how* you define "volume"

With all the modern audio processing techniques, digital dynamic-range-compression, dynamic range compression within frequency bands, etc, it's increasingly possible to make things sound louder (and which argueably are louder) but which somebody can point to a sound level meter (or peak meter) and deny everything.

I'm sure we've been round the loop in this country a few times already.

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Bronze badge

The Problem

Given that TV commercials are louder than the shows they're in because they have undergone dynamic range compression, it's certainly understandable that it was difficult to form a sufficiently precise definition of subjective average loudness (as against maximum volume) for such a law.

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I've got a better solution

"""Households across the country will soon get the relief they deserve from the annoyance of blaringly loud television commercials."""

Easily accomplished by turning off the television. That way you can avoid the irritating commercials /and/ the irritating programming. Maybe read a book or talk to your room mate / significant other / family instead.

Seriously though, this bill is just in time, since everyone now has a DVR to skip commercials, or they just watch on some form of streaming service, the ads on which are probably not even covered.

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Meh

PC not working? Buy a MAC!

"Easily accomplished by turning off the television. That way you can avoid the irritating commercials /and/ the irritating programming. Maybe read a book or talk to your room mate / significant other / family instead."

Computer not working properly? Dealing with this can be easily accomplished by turning off the computer. That way you can avoid the irritating slowness /and/ the irritating internet. Maybe read a book or talk to your room mate / significant other / family instead.

Car not working properly? Dealing with this can be easily accomplished by not using it. That way you can avoid the irritating firing on 3 cylinders /and/ the irritating starter motor issues. Maybe read a book or talk to your room mate / significant other / family instead.

etc, etc, etc...

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Stop

Choices

Important distinction...

TV = OPTIONAL. One will not die from lack of watching TV.

Car = Essential for many: get to work, do shopping, pick up medication. (NOT take kids to school)

Computer = Increasingly essential: access government services, banking, utilities etc. Most business as it is today unable to operate without.

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"Car = Essential for many"

Use public transport, I haven't had a car in over 8 years

"Computer = Increasingly essential"

Pick up the phone, all the services mentioned are available on that. The computer at home is a convenience, not a necessity.

The TV at home is a convenience too. You don't need it, but sometimes it nice to have.

But the point that went flying over so many heads is:

saying get rid of it, or buy another brand is NOT a solution.

My ridiculous example should have been an obvious illustration of this.

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Anonymous Coward

BUT

TV isn't optional;

Miss X-Factor (or Strictly come dancing, or whatever shite is popular)

Can't join in with social conversations

Feel alienated

??

It's actually the increasing levels of adverts being foisted on the On Demand stuff that bothers me, but at least you can block most of it!

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Vic
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> Miss X-Factor

I've never missed an episode of X-Factor.

I haven't seen many[1], but I've never missed any in the slightest.

Vic.

[1] I'd love to say "haven't seen any", but 'Er Indoors puts it on every bloody weekend :-(

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Anonymous Coward

Wicker, however, withdrew his support in 2010, stating that "... the television industry has been moving in the right direction on commercial advertising audio volume. Therefore, I do not believe government intervention is necessary at this time."

I wish I lived in MS so so I could vote against this slimeball.

The problem seems to have gotten worse and worse as of late. To the point where I have stopped watching TV because it raises my blood pressure whenever I do.

In a way I'll miss the louder commercials.. I'm reading a lot more now.

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Thumb Up

"...but writing a law to do so seems a stretch."

Another interesting quote. Translation: "We were lobbied by ordinary punters for a new law, but since they don't fund our campaigns, they can go take a running jump."

On the other hand, these big media firms do, and they say that it's "not necessary" so that's good enough for me.....

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Open letter to the "honorable" Representative from Texas

Sir, while I share a number of core values with you, shut the hell up. This will be about the only intelligent legislation to come out of D.C. in decades. Given the fact that the political whores are starting their campaigning, I for one don't want to be subjected crap pulled by the advertising industry, ESPECIALLY when it comes to the impending onslaught of political advertisements.

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Facepalm

"On June 17, 2010, Barton accused the White House of a "$20 billion shakedown" of oil giant BP after the company reached an agreement with Obama to establish an escrow account to pay the claims of people harmed by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.["

Apologizing to BP, telling people mad at ads to "get over it" .

This guy's choice of finger and choice of trigger really needs to change, as he's run out of feet now. Oh, wait, his district re-elected him last election! And since '85. Oh, wait, this was Phil Gramm's old district. They don't care how idiotic their representative is!

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The least I do is hit the mute key when the ads come on. That way I can easily see when the actual programme is back on without being subjected to shite about perfumes and fake-science hair care products etc.

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Stop

4 years my *, how about 60 years

The difference in volume has been obvious since the beginnings of TV broadcasting. I could find old cartoons from Mad and the New Yorker and other US mags, dated from the 50's, observing the phenomena.

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Boffin

It's not the volume...

...it only seems that way, but what it is is the compression, which is the way they've always gotten around volume limits.

It's the same thing radio stations used to do (and probably still do) to seem louder than the other stations on the dial.

At this point I'd settle for better audio in the shows themselves, so that dialogue isn't constantly buried under background noise or music.

And I think the music is over-compressed somewhere along the line before it gets added/mixed in to the show's soundtrack.

I know it's do-able, listen to old show or movies, they didn't have the problem and the current show "Burn Notice" does not have the problem, whoever does audio for that show do an excellent job.

Now get off my lawn.

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Stop

Much better solution available

Simply add to the transmission standard a mandatory notification of advert start and advert stop events in the transmission. Then those who still actually watch broadcast TV can buy televisions / decoders / PVRs etc which have sensible config options;

1) Program volume and Crapvert volume as separate settings, you could even set the default...

2) Do not record crapverts for PVRs

See, easy and it is even a commercial opportunity for equipment vendors so the Republican slimeball has somebody to take a bribe, sorry "campaign donation" from.

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Silver badge

The technology

to do this has been around for years, the reason it wont ever work is that the TV companies wont be happy as nearly all of their revenue comes from adverts. Thats, of course, includes adverts from the TV manufacturers themselves.

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wub

Don't forget the compression effect.

I have heard an explanation of why this won't work from someone more knowledgeable than I am, but which I can actually understand. The volume level of your TV is the volume you set. Think of this volume level as a speed limit, or as your bandwidth. Most of the program content does not use the full bandwidth. It is normal for the amount of 'bandwidth' used to vary with time. The explosions always sound louder than the dialog, for example. The loudest sounds in a typical program use much more 'bandwidth' than the quietest sounds.

What the commercial makers do is compress the sound information, so that the very quietest sound is only slightly quieter than the loudest sound, and they arrange for the loudest sound to use the whole 'bandwidth'. This forces all the audio to be as loud as the volume level you set.

It is unlikely that this new law will change my experience, here in California, at all. More's the pity.

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Bronze badge

AC-3 audio

Between the encoded amplitude and the Dialnorm metadata, this should be quite confusing to enforce.

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Mushroom

Does the US still have that thing where they cut straight from the TV show to the adverts without displaying an "end of part 1" card or something similar? In the UK it's mandatory to make it clear where each break is. Shows are also supposed to wait until a natural break but that doesn't always happen, especially when it's a BBC show being screened on something like Dave or Watch and the presenter gets cut off mid sentence. I know advertisers want to be as obtrusive and noticeable as possible but sometimes all that achieves is "I'm not buying *that* because the adverts were so annoying".

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Anonymous Coward

Not just that

... while UK TV has only just devolved to allowing product placement, US TV goes beyond it to have in-program adverts. I don't just mean presenters of live programs speaking an advert, or displaying a product with the obvious branding. No, the USA has fictional programs with characters describing features of products.

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Anonymous Coward

The republican party is so obsessed with opposing anything the democrats try to do that If America got invaded today the Republicans would try to stop Obama sending troops to defend their own country.

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Silver badge

It's sorta happened before (almost), remember the attempt at appeasement before World War 2.

Yay! Godwin is alive an' kicking!

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It's bipartisan

Both sides have been obsessed with opposing the other party for quite a while.

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Constant channel volume

Next up. Switching from one channel to another can cause you to be jumped out of your seat as the audio volume levels from channel to channel can be almost an order of magnitude different.

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Anonymous Coward

Well yeah

If you switch from Downton Abbey to Top Gear then yeah, things might get louder. That's just fair enough.

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Boffin

Another simple solution...

... Everything I want to watch, I record on Sky+ consequently ad breaks are a matter of pressing the fast forward button and counting an appropriate number of seconds before I press play again.

Bingo, no noisy ads!

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Anonymous Coward

Another simple solution..

Everything I want to watch, I record on MythTV, consequently ad breaks are a matter of doing nothing and watching the automatic advert skipping bring me seamlessly to the next part of the program.

Bingo, no noisy ads, no effort! And no monthly subscription :-)

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