Should Television Ad Volume Be Equalized?

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.

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!

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