Legislation addressing overly loud advertisements is beginning to move through the U.S. Congress. The prospect of regulation has some parties concerned.

In June 2008, Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) introduced The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act (CALM, H.R. 6209). Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) sponsored the Senate version of the bill.

Last week, the House Communications Subcommittee approved the bill in a voice vote, referring it to the full Energy and Commerce Subcommittee.

“The Federal Communications Commission (FCC),” states the agency’s Web site, “does not currently regulate the volume of programs or commercials.” (Emphasis added). That would change if CALM becomes law. But should it?

It’s in NCTA member companies’ best interest to figure out what’s feasible and propose that to Congress, according to Eric Conley, CEO of Mixed Signals, rather than wait and have Congress come up with something that’s not technologically feasible.

Conley said there’s a general audio guideline called “dialog norm,” which is the decibel level of two people talking. Programmers and operators usually set dialog norm at -27 dB. ‘That gives audio encoders information on what they should target. But if you have a movie with bombs going off, you can have huge dynamic range,” he said.

The problem is certain advertisers encode their commercials with a different dialog norm. So two people talking sounds more like two people shrieking.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) has developed an audio specification BS.1770 that is expected to be adopted by the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) in the United States.

Mixed Signals, which already has its Sentry audio monitoring equipment widely deployed, can support the BS.1770 specification via a software upgrade.

Conley isn’t alone in suggesting that Congress isn’t the best group to deal with this. In the November 2008 issue of Sound and Vision, columnist Ken Pohlmann described the bill as “totally dumb.”

“It has the added advantage of being unenforceable,” he stated.

-Linda Hardesty

The Daily

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