Back in March of 2008, I went on a tear about the loud volume of commercials on our television sets.

We all know it, but networks say it isn’t so.  Television stations drink the fruit punch and then say that ads are not louder than the program, but that they only sound louder.  Duh!

Technically they are correct – just like the statement that it’s not the flame that hurts your finger, it’s the heat generated by the flame. Sorry TV guys, but the source is the source and that’s that.  You can use whatever words you like, but you still look the fool trying to make us think you’re right.

Looking into why TV ads are louder, I discovered that advertisers take advantage of what is called mid range tones from the dynamic range compression process.  By this process, louder sounds get reduced a bit while the quieter sounds are usually not affected.  In the end, this compression increases the average level of sound and the effective result is that the show becomes louder.

There is one tiny control in place, but it doesn’t seem realistic.  This control or practice says that no television ad will ever be louder than the loudest part of any show you watch.  That means if I watch a show that talks about growing grass, the ads should be pretty quiet.  I watch a show on historical military conflicts, and I’m going to be in for a wild auditory ride come commercial time.

too loud Should Television Ad Volume Be Equalized?

Networks and advertisers further insult our intelligence by making the newest excuse that ads seem just that much louder because ads come on when, traditionally, a show is at its quietest moments – i.e., just before a commercial.  Give me a $%^&ing break.

Regardless of what any network says in their tech-speak, as far as my perceptions go these fracking ads are louder than the shows and that’s that.  The more you try to tell me otherwise, TV guys, the more daft in the head you look.

The FCC has even said that volume is a personal preference and we should contact stations to inform them of the loudness.  Oh, like that’s worked real well so far.

There Are TV’s Out There For This

In January of 2007, Dolby Laboratories, Inc. demonstrated Dolby Volume, an audio-processing technology that deals with the sounds we perceive and works to eliminate variability.

TV’s with this feature were supposed to start showing up on the shelves sometime in 2008.  I haven’t followed that up enough to know if those TV’s are currently out there.

There Was Help On The Horizon

Representative Anna Eshoo, D-CA, presented a bill last June to regulate commercial volume.  Eshoo is a member of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet.  The bill is the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act, aka CALM. There were 63 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate.

This tells me that we definitely are not alone and the issue is obviously gaining enough ground in political arena’s to generate their focus.  Albeit, good job Eshoo!

In her words about television commercials:  “It really turns you off, makes you think, ‘I’ll be damned if I give them any of my money.’

You Need To Sit Down For This One

Broadcasters are saying that they have a plan in place to address this issue and are hinting that now that TV has gone digital, it’s a plan that could go into affect in the next couple of months.  Someone asked me today if this “technology” wasn’t already in-place and why haven’t they already used it?

Good question, considering that advertiser use of the mid-tones of sound probably could be regulated, but the networks don’t want to, apparently.  I mean, hey!  That’s akin to slapping the hand that feeds you.

What I see as the downside of the digital age is that advertisers are now going to have a broader range of sounds to use instead of just volume.  To me, that means that they’ll be able use more tech-speak to make excuses for why the ads are louder, yet again.

Survey Says?

Eshoo’s bill, H.R. 1084, after being floated for approximately a year, finally had its moment in the light.  And it seems that broadcasters fingers are much deeper in pockets than this naive writer suspected.

David Donovan, president of the Association for Maximum Service Television, produced an argument saying that there will be a “recommended practice” in place by September that makes suggestions on what levels sound should be at during shows and ads.

Congress lapped it up like a cat at a milk bowl and decided that they will let broadcasters police their own for now and if the problem was not resolved, that they will reintroduce the bill next year.

Sigh…  Give me a break!  That means the bill will be reintroduced and then float around for another year until they stall it yet again.

In The End, Advertisers Win

Broadcasters got a stay in the bill and we continue to suffer.

Sure, volume is a perceived thing.  That’s why on some cable stations I have to crank my volume 50% higher to hear the shows and yet the commercials are still at their usual mode of LOUD.  Because I perceive it.  Some say that’s a ploy disseminated by the stations heavily in the pockets of the advertisers.  It does seem odd, but I can’t tell you for a fact that’s what is behind it… though if I look, it sometimes does seem that the network slamming me with this mix of volume has even more ads than most networks and probably pays a chunk of money through the nose to guarantee first TV rights to movies.  Hmm…

So, while advertisers drop almost $300 billion a year into commercials, the consumers are left with ringing ears.  The more patient and possibly wiser consumer would rather rent or buy DVD’s of shows than deal with this noise crap.

Than again, my suspicious mindset wonders if that alone might not be the agenda all along?

As far as I can tell, there are no good answers on the horizon for us.  We’ll will just have to keep thumping our volume or mute buttons to save ourselves from the distraction that is the noise of advertising.  If you’ve come up with a working solution, please, let the readers here at Screen Rant know about it.  We could use some auditory assistance.

Sources:  MSNBC, Dolby Investor News, Yahoo News, On Line Athens, XO Wave, TVB