ATSC Takes Aim at Loud TV Ads

Are those too-loud TV ads wearing you down? The standard-setting body for DTV is taking aim at the problem of blaring commercials by distributing new audio guidelines to broadcasters.

While there is a maximum level for all audio that accompanies television broadcasts, commercials often defeat the spirit of the rules by elevating all sounds to the top of the allowed level. Since the main programming typically has a range of volume, both soft and loud, the ads seem subjectively louder. Anyone who has wilted under a barrage of SUV ads will recognize the problem immediately.

The Advanced Television Systems Committee has therefore devised new guidelines that tackle the problem on several levels. As the press release says: "The Recommended Practice (RP) provides guidance to broadcasters and creators of audio for high-definition (HD) or standard-definition (SD) television content, and also recommends production, distribution, and transmission practices needed to provide the highest quality audio soundtracks to the digital television audience. The document focuses on audio measurement, production and postproduction monitoring techniques, and methods to effectively control loudness for content delivery or exchange. Additionally, the RP recommends methods to effectively control program-to-interstitial loudness, discusses metadata systems and use, and describes modern dynamic range control. It also includes specific information on loudness management at the boundaries of programs and interstitial content."

Licensors of surround codecs and processing modes have already dealt with the loudness issue in their own way, by offering licensed technologies that reduce dynamic range, even out levels among input sources, and aid low-volume listening. These technologies include Dolby Volume, THX Loudness Plus, Audyssey Dynamic Volume, and Audyssey Dynamic EQ.