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"Loud Commercial" Legislation Proposed In US Congress

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the you-have-my-grandmother's-vote dept.

Television 636

Hackajar writes "Have you ever caught yourself running for the volume control when a TV commercial comes on? Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) has, and is submitting legislation that would require TV commercials in the US to stay at volume levels similar to the programming they are associated with. From the article: 'Right now, the government doesn't have much say in the volume of TV ads. It's been getting complaints ever since televisions began proliferating in the 1950s. But the FCC concluded in 1984 there was no fair way to write regulations controlling the "apparent loudness" of commercials.'"

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636 comments

I'd much rather... (3, Insightful)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437274)

I hate loud commercials too, but this is just too much government IMHO. I'd much rather just have intelligent TVs or receivers that turned the volume down upon detecting a commercial...based on the settings *I* want, not what the government thinks is best for me.

Re:I'd much rather... (2, Informative)

Dan667 (564390) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437338)

MythTV allows you to record programs and the commercials are automatically skipped without even needing a button press.

Re:I'd much rather... (2, Interesting)

Ark42 (522144) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437776)

From a technical aspect - How? And is it 100% correct in what it does and does not skip, or just 99% correct? I was not aware of any specific flag in streams that marks content vs commercial.

Re:I'd much rather... (2, Interesting)

yurtinus (1590157) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437340)

Which is technology I recall being advertised over a decade ago, I *think* by Philips.

Re:I'd much rather... (3, Insightful)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437368)

My father's old rear projection TV was a Magnavox with Smart Sound. it wasn't perfect and you probably want to turn it off during movies, but it did a pretty good job.

Re:I'd much rather... (3, Insightful)

Kryptonian Jor-El (970056) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437418)

So you'd rather have to pay more for your TV then to just force the networks to stop being assholes?

If *you* want loud commercials, then turn your TV up louder. I'm tired of the networks jacking the commercial sound up, its bullshit and I shouldn't have to be responsible for fixing it. If I have the movie or TV show at 70 dB, I want the commercials at 70 dB as well.

Re:I'd much rather... (2, Interesting)

The Living Fractal (162153) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437478)

On principle, yes.

Re:I'd much rather... (4, Insightful)

Kryptonian Jor-El (970056) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437566)

What principle? You, as a consumer, have no power in this. Every broadcaster does it, and even if some didn't, you can't "vote with your wallet" short of just not paying for TV. Regulation is good, especially in monopolistic situations

Re:I'd much rather... (3, Informative)

CharlieG (34950) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437712)

No, the broadcasters do NOT turn up the level on the commercials, the producers of the commercials do so - the guys running the tranmission chain at the stations run the tapes at the standard levels

It's the whole "Music loudness wars" all over - just for TV

Re:I'd much rather... (-1, Troll)

agm (467017) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437714)

What principle? You, as a consumer, have no power in this.

Yes, we do. We do not have to watch channels that have tactics we do not like.
We can circumvent advertising with digital recorders.
We have a lot of power over this.

Every broadcaster does it, and even if some didn't, you can't "vote with your wallet" short of just not paying for TV.

That's a valid response. If the masses stood up and said "we'll support the station that doesn't have loud ads", then those broadcasters would eventually listen.

Regulation is good, especially in monopolistic situations

Regulation is bad. Period. The loudness of advertising is none of the states business.

Re:I'd much rather... (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437760)

The fact that a fair government may allow the customer to get screwed, but the power in the end will rest with the consumer to avoid being screwed.

If government can interfere in this wait for the EU-style Nanny-State laws limiting volume on MP3 players, more DMCA-style legislation, and perhaps even legislation forbidding the skipping of commercials.

Whenever one good law that helps consumers comes out, five more that are anti-consumer will be legalized. A government that stays out of stuff will be more free for much longer than one that interferes in every little thing.

Re:I'd much rather... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30437672)

In other words, you want to pay more for products that strip the bullshit out of other products that are forced upon you, rather than have a government regulation on the matter.

That's like a rape victim paying for lube instead of calling the police.

Re:I'd much rather... (2, Interesting)

selven (1556643) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437680)

Many modern TVs are running a full operating system anyway. I'm sure there's a way to hack them to make them do what you want.

Re:I'd much rather... (3, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437550)

I hate loud commercials too, but this is just too much government IMHO

Since Broadcasters (OTA/Cable/Fiber) all have to have FCC licenses, the government is already involved in the minutia of their business practices.

Here's what the bill is asking broadcasters to follow:
http://www.atsc.org/standards/a_85-2009.pdf [atsc.org]

It's 72 pages and I don't have the technical knowledge to understand it all anyways, but I think the original idea of "commercials cannot be louder than the program's average volume" is a pretty simple alternative to guidelines written by the industry.

Re:I'd much rather... (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437584)

This is EXACTLY what I want my government involved with. Of all the nonsense I am powerless to deal with on my own, which is admittedly a lot, I still (naively, perhaps), feel as though I can vote the bastards out of office for foisting off a ridiculous health care bill, printing money like its 1999, and sending my buddies to the Middle East, the ONE THING I am absolutely powerless to do anything about is the annoying way commercials up their volume. Here here, and well done for this true representative of the people. I hope she's successful.

Re:I'd much rather... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30437606)

turned the volume down upon detecting a commercial...

Now now, that would totally violate the DMCA. :P

Re:I'd much rather... (1)

wkk2 (808881) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437614)

I'd much rather see them ban region coding so I can purchase disks anywhere.

Re:I'd much rather... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30437706)

I hate loud commercials too, and this is fair use of our power qua government IMHO. Allow the legislature to legislate and leave it to the voters to judge whether the benefit of non-loud commercials is outweighed by the loss of freedom. I know some people will construe this as the "tyranny of the majority", but I'm not too sure that the tyranny of the minority is always to be preferred.

Re:I'd much rather... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30437724)

Ya, well, it's from another democrat. They claim to be all about freedom, but 99% of the YRO stories are about democrats doing something to limit someone's freedom.

Re:I'd much rather... (4, Interesting)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437812)

I'd much rather just have intelligent TVs or receivers that turned the volume down upon detecting a commercial...based on the settings *I* want, not what the government thinks is best for me.

Wait, the goverment says to network or whoever "Hey, make the commercials the same volume as the program" and you are complaining that the government isn't allowing you a choice? They are the one in this case trying to protect your choice of volume level!

And sorry, forcing everyone to buy a new TV for a feature when the government can implement for essentially free for everyone and at no real cost to any party involved is being technologically elitist and if you don't see how the corps just love your "solution" to death...

I take care of an elderly parent, when the commercial starts blaring at a normal volume, it is very annoying, at their volume, it's painful.

Technology to the rescue! (2, Interesting)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437278)

I believe new fangled TVs nowadays have a special feature that keep the decibals between any certain range you prefer, or some system similar to that to keep the loud bangs down while keeping the quiet dialogue up.

It'll only be another decade before it's standard, and this law (if it passes) is deprecated.

Re:Technology to the rescue! (1)

KalAl (1391649) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437352)

Yeah you definitely don't want to hear the loud banging of those decibals.

Re:Technology to the rescue! (5, Funny)

EdZ (755139) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437430)

Unfortunately, dynamic volume control also affects sound in programs you want to watch, not just adverts. Imaging if you were watching a movie, and all the whispers were louder and the explosions quieter. Not so great. "Turn it on only for the adverts" is just making a more complicated and less useful mute button.

As an alternative to legislating the volume of adverts, I propose that before any advert is allowed to air, the director of that advert must be forced to watch it on repeat for 12 hours, locked in a room with a loaded gun and no controls for the TV (with the TV protected by bullet-resistant glass, of course). If the director survives, the ad can be aired.

Re:Technology to the rescue! (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437526)

Imaging if you were watching a movie, and all the whispers were louder and the explosions quieter. Not so great. .

This is actually a great feature, by the way, it means you can watch this years action blockbuster while letting the room mates sleep, while not missing a beat.

And also, its a feature that you can turn ON and OFF. Thus when it comes to watching it audibly unimpeded, rest assured you have that ability.

Re:Technology to the rescue! (4, Funny)

geckipede (1261408) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437600)

That's a rather low standard isn't it? How about making a neutral third party watch the ad for 12 hours on repeat, and only then add the director and a pair of big sticks to the room.

Re:Technology to the rescue! (1)

prockcore (543967) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437634)

It's called compression, and I'd rather keep my dynamic range and change the commercials, than destroy my dynamic range using compression to even out the audio.

Re:Technology to the rescue! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30437782)

Actually, HDTV with digital audio probably makes it worse. With analog broadcasting, the FCC can legitimately prohibit and penalize overmodulation, because it interferes with reception of other stations. With digital audio, the volume can be jacked up to stentorian levels by just shifting a couple of bits, and it wouldn't surprise me if the media companies have arm-twisted the electronics manufacturers into specifically designing sets to prevent the user from preventing it.

What is a Commercial? (3, Insightful)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437284)

dvr [wikipedia.org]

Re:What is a Commercial? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30437310)

A commercial is the garbage you have to manually skip over with your DVR every several minutes because your DVR somehow strangely lost its ability to do that for you in a more-automated fashion.

Re:What is a Commercial? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30437318)

It's that stuff you fast-forward through.

Re:What is a Commercial? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30437608)

thepiratebay

Unnecesary (1)

kabaju42 (959652) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437290)

Aren't there TVs that will automatically adjust the volume for this very reason? That is, if you aren't skipping the commercials with a Tivo anyway.

Do we really want the government telling us what to do on that level?

Re:Unnecesary (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437404)

This same Congresswoman tried to legislate "Clap On" lights in the workplace, skip protection in CD Players, and some other feature or product that already solves a problem only the elderly face.

Re:Unnecesary (1)

ArchieBunker (132337) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437436)

My 55" Sony has a volume limiter option but it never made much difference at either setting. The only tv that a volume limiter option worked was an old Philips 19" CRT from my bedroom.

Re:Unnecesary (1)

AF_Cheddar_Head (1186601) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437520)

You do realize that skipping the commercials deprives the advertiser of the eyeballs that he is paying for and such is stealing from the advertiser.

Some advertisers want to make it illegal to have the function to skip commercials.

And you thought the RIAA was bad.

Re:Unnecesary (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437644)

If the advertiser doesn't want those eyeballs to skip commercials, it might help if they weren't insanely loud or annoying on several other levels.

Re:Unnecesary (1)

clampolo (1159617) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437788)

Yes. The most annoying are the crap that appears on TBS. In the middle of a movie, the botton third of the screen will be taken over by some ad for one of their horrible shows. The networks like doing this crap during football games too.

Re:Unnecesary (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437784)

You do realize that skipping the commercials deprives the advertiser of the eyeballs that he is paying for and such is stealing from the advertiser.

People who skip commercials are stealing television.
People who wear body armor are stealing my ammunition.
People who fluoridate water are sapping and impurifying all our precious bodily fluids.

How about... (3, Interesting)

sycodon (149926) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437294)

But the FCC concluded in 1984 there was no fair way to write regulations controlling the "apparent loudness" of commercials.'" ...every time my wife yells at me to "turn down that damned TV" because commercial suddenly starts blasting, the advertising executive for that commercial gets a 24 volt shock?

Re:How about... (3, Insightful)

idontgno (624372) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437386)

But the FCC concluded in 1984 there was no fair way to write regulations controlling the "apparent loudness" of commercials.'" ...every time my wife yells at me to "turn down that damned TV" because commercial suddenly starts blasting, the advertising executive for that commercial gets a 24 kvolt shock?

There, FTFY.

Yes, I know the chances of surviving a 24 kilovolt shock are pretty low, but I'm willing to risk it.

Why, yes, I'm not an advertising executive. And yes, I do hate those God-awful advertisements. How could you tell?

Re:How about... (0)

lax-goalie (730970) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437548)

Yes, I know the chances of surviving a 24 kilovolt shock are pretty low, but I'm willing to risk it.

Nope. The chances of surviving a 24 kilovolt shock are actually pretty high, if the amperage is low enough. That little spark between your finger and a doorknob on a cold, dry day can be millions of volts.

It's current that kills, not voltage.

Re:How about... (1)

FrankSchwab (675585) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437734)

Completely OT, but...
I'm pretty sure you won't get a million volts between your finger and a doorknob. The industry standard ESD test to simulate such an event only goes up to 15KV or so, and generates a spark an inch or two long. Cranking the ESD simulator up to 30KV, and applying to small insects is, shall we say, cruelly entertaining.

A million volts would be, well, scary, even if current limited. /frank

Re:How about... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30437806)

Mod parent down for not knowing what he's talking about. It's impossible to receive a 24kV shock and not have a non-lethal amount of current going through you (unless you're wearing insulated gloves, which means you're not getting the full 24kV). A 24kV shock for 10 seconds means death. When you get a shock from touching a door knob, the voltage and current both are high enough to kill you, but too short of duration.

Oh, and amperage does not exist.

Does each channel control their commercials? (1)

Tynin (634655) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437316)

It seems that if each channel is already broadcasting whatever commercial they decide (and aren't just allowing some 3rd party time to broadcast over the channel for commercials), they could simply normalize the audio to be in tune with their shows prior to airing. They'd just need to process the commercials they receive one time before sticking them in rotation, and tada, no more screaming commercials... or am I misunderstanding how this works? Presently I can only imagine this is due to laziness on part of the channel, and a twisted sense of greed on part of the offending commercials.

Re:Does each channel control their commercials? (1)

sunderland56 (621843) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437476)

You're somewhat misunderstanding. The networks and stations just receive commercials on a tape, and air them - in many cases they don't even watch them first. The time to run every spot received through a process would cost a lot of money that the networks/stations don't have right now.

And - basically, both shows and commercials are at the same level, but they heavily compress the audio on commercials. If the network heavily compressed shows, the problem would go away - but the shows would sound like crap (whispers at full volume, background music becomes deafening when there is no dialog, and so on). Several commenters have mentioned TV sets that modulate the audio - they are simply compressing all audio (and making all audio sound like crap, not just the commercials).

The FCC regulates the technical side of the TV signal; but technically the FM audio signal is equally modulated for all content. The FCC can't prevent people on commercials from yelling.

Re:Does each channel control their commercials? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30437774)

And - basically, both shows and commercials are at the same level,

No, they're not (although the peaks might be).

So someone (the network or the commerical producer - don't care) just runs the commercial through the moral equivalent of mp3gain, and we're done.

Re:Does each channel control their commercials? (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437494)

Presently I can only imagine this is due to laziness on part of the channel

You are absolutely right. They don't want to have to pay anyone another cent then they have to. No one expresses their concerns to them, though who is expressing This particular concern to their congresswoman, absolutely baffles me (isn't she supposed to be representing her constituents or something like that? Are they all 80+ years old?).

Anyways, it's not that difficult, but the networks won't feel they need to do it unless the FCC does something about it, and they won't force it unless the government says so. Why hello Mr Red Tape, didn't expect to see you here.

Re:Does each channel control their commercials? (1)

Kryptonian Jor-El (970056) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437524)

But see, the commercials wouldn't be worth as much, or at least, the advertisers wouldn't pay as much to have their ads broadcast. Since people get up to get food and such during commercials, they make them louder so that if you can't see them, maybe you'll still hear them. So by normalizing the commercial audio, then you wouldn't potentially make as much money.

Wow, something about this seems freaky. (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437326)

"We're gonna fight a few stupid wars in which thousands of people will die needlessly, and our country will go broke!" BOO!

"Also, we're gonna pass a law to make your commercials less loud!" YEEAAAHHH!!! WE LUVZ U CONGREZZ!!!11!! USA USA!

Re:Wow, something about this seems freaky. (4, Insightful)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437646)

To be fair, what you're doing is almost a Godwin. The huge majority of what Congress does pales in comparison in many ways when put next to wars, and even health care. But many of those things need to be considered, even with bigger, more important things going on.

If you support or decry this proposed law, do so on its own merits. Otherwise, we may as well compare everything to the wars and to healthcare, and ignore a huge range of very real issues which need resolution.

Ok, but... (1)

Nihixul (1430251) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437344)

While I certainly agree with the sentiments of those who've complained, I don't really want yet another FCC regulation or the like. I think the appropriate people to complain to would be the networks. I am not so naive as to think that would necessarily solve the problem, but that is at least where the problem is. Gripe at them, or perhaps push for a TV (hardware) feature that would accomplish what you want.

Re:Ok, but... (1)

Meshach (578918) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437394)

Agreed.

With the country in recession and several wars / potential wars going on constantly I would hope that politicians would pay attention to higher priority tasks.

Re:Ok, but... (1)

Night Goat (18437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437442)

I agree. If enough people were that concerned about the volume of commercials, they wouldn't watch the shows and the problem would fix itself. No need to legislate something that can be dealt with by the nature of the market.

Re:Ok, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30437590)

I watch TV for the show and not the commercials. It will take a lot for the commercials for me to say "I'm not going to watch what I came for." Seriously, that your idea is ridiculous.

Furthermore, the volume change in commercials are annoying and at times enough to disturb others in adjacent rooms or apartments and it is the job of the FCC to regulate such matters. Thus, this is exactly what they should be doing.

Re:Ok, but... (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437682)

So what you're saying is that because people continue to watch TV after ~60 years, they obviously enjoy commercials at double the volume of the show they're watching.

Re:Ok, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30437482)

Hey it might turn out to be like the Movie Ratings where the industry will self regulate just to keep the Government out of the picture.While I initially saw this and sighed because I am one of those people who hate having to raise the volume on a show and then getting hit with the full volume of the commercial. It's not too big of a deal for me these days since I hardly watch TV and I do try to hulu whichever shows I end up missing but it is just an annoyance of advertising. I'd rather see the FCC put their full weight behind net neutrality and have congress figure out how to keep people in their homes so they can have TV commercials to complain about, then to actually have this is an issue. I realize that it's possible for the FCC and congress to do both but time wasted is still time wasted.

No fair way to write regulations? (4, Insightful)

t0qer (230538) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437364)

You take the average gain of the last 30 seconds of a program before it goes to commercial, and don't allow the commercials to be any louder than that.

If I can make karaoke and techno music automatically crossfade with my meager skills(link below)

http://www.facebook.com/v/203775860215 [facebook.com]

Then surely a TV station or broadcast network could make commercials stay at the same gain as the programming.

Re:No fair way to write regulations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30437464)

It would in fact be trivial. Perceived loudness is pretty well reflected by RMS. A RMS limiter with a nice long envelope would handle it. Just standardize on a dynamic range and use limiters to enforce it! If the advertisers still want to saturate their audio, let them, but it will no longer sound louder.

Re:No fair way to write regulations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30437468)

The last 30 seconds is an intense, but silent, stare down between two actors, or maybe the soft music of a peaceful scene...you'r algorithm fails kind sir! FAILS!

Re:No fair way to write regulations? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30437556)

Nope, it doesn't. I'm half deaf already, and I turn up the volume for soft music so I can hear WTF is going on. A few seconds later, the pain is intense. The algorithm will work well.

That's a BENEFIT of his algorithmn (1)

jeko (179919) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437574)

Sometimes the commercials stay quiet altogether? That's not a failure, that's a "happy accident."

Re:No fair way to write regulations? (2, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437662)

You take the average gain of the last 30 seconds of a program before it goes to commercial, and don't allow the commercials to be any louder than that.

If I can make karaoke and techno music automatically crossfade with my meager skills Then surely a TV station or broadcast network could make commercials stay at the same gain as the programming.

You do not under-estimate their skill, but rather their willingness to bother to do so.

Re:No fair way to write regulations? (1)

jjoelc (1589361) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437702)

So what are stations supposed to do if the last 30 seconds of the program were silence (or almost...) Run the commercial without sound? Wouldn't it suck if the last 30 seconds of the show were a gunfight (in dolby surround, no less!)

There is a LOT more to it than just gain. If it was just gain, then we would already be there.

How about going from an HD 5.1 surround mix program to a stereo (or even mono x2) commercial? Or the opposite way?

I am an engineer at a TV station, and while there are a lot of products out there to try and control volume levels... None of them work all that well, and none of them work near as well as an employee who is paying attention to something more than just the meters.

Digital has (oddly enough) taken away a lot of the control that stations used to have over things like audio and video levels. The attitude seems to be "It's digital, all of that is automatic now" Station Automation only makes this situation worse. Even if there were still a "knob to twiddle" there wouldn't be anyone there to twiddle it.

It also doesn't help that your stereotypical TV Chief Engineer is "the old guy who has been doing this for 40+ years". They have spent their entire lives learning and practicing TV. And next to none of it applies anymore. Most of them were convinced to stick it out through the DTV transition, but I am expecting a very large number of them to go ahead and retire now that it has passed. Perhaps the younger crowd of engineers, who all grew up on computers and with digital everything will do better... or maybe they just grew up with the attitude "it's digital... what are you going to do?"

Re:No fair way to write regulations? (1)

whiplashx (837931) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437756)

It doesn't really work that way because TV shows and movies have a lot of sound in the high and low ranges, while commercials have more in the mid ranges. A decibel of sound in the high or low ranges can seem quite while a decibel in the mid ranges can seem loud, depending on the TV and the listener.

Further, if a TV show was extremely quiet, the commercial would be forced to be quiet...

-Thomas

Really? (1)

Wister285 (185087) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437376)

With all that's going on in the world, this is what we are paying our legislators to address? When are the next elections again? Come on people, we have to be able to do better than this.

Too far with the overacting (1, Insightful)

101010_or_0x2A (1001372) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437380)

Enough with the over-exaggeration, she seriously has to close the windows? Maybe shes watching TV too loud in the first place. And Ive never seen an ad that pumps up the volume more than a few bars if at all, so rather than trying to get her name on a piece of legislature, she should focus on her own habits?

Compression (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30437392)

The apparent volume level is very hard to regulate when the sound sources are so very different. One apparent solution could be to put an - even more - aggressive compression to the broadcast sound, but that would just piss me off. Overly compressed sound sounds like a turd sandwich, but would however even out volume levels. This is by the way more of a client-side solution, which I just right now realize is no solution at all to this problem.... Yes, requiring the networks to even out sound volumes at the source would be a good idea... as long as they do not compress the sound more than they do now!

Bad idea. (1, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437416)

Okay, first, thanks for recognizing the problem. But there's no way to legislate such technical detail because volume is subjective, not objective. Do you measure the peaks? The frequency spread? What about people who have hearing problems? They have a different idea of what 'loud' is. The problem is something called "audio compression" -- which results in a higher apparent volume. TV shows use a wider dynamic range than commercials -- commercials can be heard even at very low volume levels because they occupy a very narrow frequency range.

Legislate commercials to have a lower volume level and they'll come up with other insidious ways of annoying you (ie, capturing your attention)... Like shaky-cam and that annoying slow-zoom rotating text crap. Seriously... Go to the heart of the problem: Make invasive advertising illegal and give multi-million dollar fines to anyone who distributes such content. Also... bring back Congress issuing Letters of Mark. I'll take one for the executives of Fox, kthx.

Re:Bad idea. (2, Insightful)

ezelkow1 (693205) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437552)

please mod up, first post to actually introduce the relevant information and not just 'MAKE THE VOLUME LOWER'. Volume is already legislated, its the issue of compression and headroom

Re:Bad idea. (2, Informative)

snicho99 (984884) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437688)

Mod parent up. Here in Australia we already have this legislation and it's *completely* pointless. Same deal, some ninny in parliament with no real understanding of the technology involved wrote some *bs* legislation:

http://www.freetv.com.au/Content_Common/pg-Loudness-in-Advertisements.seo [freetv.com.au]

The problem is coming up with an "objective" comparison of the loudness between two bits of programming. As the parent says it's more a question of compression and dynamic range than actual volume. (by compression I mean audio compression, not data compression). If you run a peak search on even the most mild mannered jane austen bbc tv program, you'll get the same reading as you do an a sham-wow commercial. It's just that the sham-wow tvc dude is trying to cram so much information in the 30 seconds that he'll run everything at -3db. Where as in the Jane Austen thing will only reach that point once or twice in 10 minute section.

But an even bigger problem is that the people making the ads have no idea what they're actually going to be screening with. How are you going to match the apparent loudness of your ad with the tv program, if you've got no idea what that program is anyway? It's retarded.

Consequently in Australia we have a vaguely written set of "guidelines" and a requirement that any tvc submitted to a network be "OP48" compliant and say as such on the slate. The result, everyone writes OP48 compliant on their slate and that's about it....

Re:Bad idea. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30437700)

Volume is objective. Ever heard of the SPL decibel?

Shaky-cam and other techniques may disturb the viewer, but audio significantly louder than the desired setting can disturb others in adjacent rooms or apartments.

Let the techies at TV/radio stations speaks... (1)

grumpyman (849537) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437434)

I thought no matter how the ads source are like, the TV/radio techies has to 're-align' the sign so that they are in similar range (normalize, limit/compress, EQ). Yes? No? Why do we need more legislation?

Re:Let the techies at TV/radio stations speaks... (1)

niteice (793961) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437666)

Essentially, yes. The master control (final step before transmission) has the ability to change output volume. It isn't that hard to do so (either manually or automatically, depending on the existing setup).

another reason to avoid commercials (1)

fermion (181285) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437446)

While I understand that TV programming is supported by commercials, and the viewers exist only to watch those commercials, it is this sort of thing that makes me feel less guilty about skipping commercials. In fact, I hardly watch commercials because TV is kind of passé. Most good shows are on the net a day or two after the first run. Most TV seasons can be bought for $30. That is 30-40 shows a year for the cost of cable.

I would hope that advertisers would be considering how to keep TV relevant so that they can continue to have someone to watch the ads rather than continuing to alienate the few viewers they have left.

Re:another reason to avoid commercials (1)

Facegarden (967477) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437710)

While I understand that TV programming is supported by commercials, and the viewers exist only to watch those commercials, it is this sort of thing that makes me feel less guilty about skipping commercials. In fact, I hardly watch commercials because TV is kind of passé. Most good shows are on the net a day or two after the first run. Most TV seasons can be bought for $30. That is 30-40 shows a year for the cost of cable.

I would hope that advertisers would be considering how to keep TV relevant so that they can continue to have someone to watch the ads rather than continuing to alienate the few viewers they have left.

I don't have cable, i just use Hulu and torrents, but the annoying thing is that this happens even on Hulu with certain ads. That makes me want to use more torrents, but i wouldn't mind ads if they weren't so much louder than the show.
-Taylor

I'm all for it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30437452)

and I'll put money down and bet that ABC is one of the worst offenders. It's about damn time congress looked into this.

Re:I'm all for it (1)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437530)

and I'll put money down and bet that ABC is one of the worst offenders. It's about damn time congress looked into this.

Back when I had TV, TBS was god awful! And worse if you're watching something with Joaquin Phoenix with his dramatic whispering - you have the volume up to hear WTF he's whispering about and then BAM! to commercial you're jumping out of your skin! And even worse when it was Billy Mays(RIP) doing the commercial!

Re:I'm all for it (2, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437640)

And even worse when it was Billy Mays(RIP) doing the commercial!

Billy Mays didn't need no stinking dynamic range compression. Billy Mays was always at full volume in real life.

But, but (1)

pacsloof (1679790) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437466)

This means Hadden Enterprises won't be born, and Contact will never happen...

Please don't destroy my dreams, Congress, please...

Shitty Options (5, Funny)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437472)

Many TVs have the ability to auto-level stuff.

But if you've got audio running to a receiver, the receiver has to do it (and likely doesn't).

At best, you've got dynamic range compression modes, which kill off the sound quality for normal programming.

Even if we have a magical loudness law that everyone magically decides to abide by, the latest tactic I've seen is far more annoying.

Commercials now exploit surround sound to the extreme. The soundstage is either panning back and forth and around, or the ad is done in such a way that billy is on my left and molly is on my right and mom is shaking and baking that chicken directly inside my fucking subwoofer.

Re:Shitty Options (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437696)

Many TVs have the ability to auto-level stuff.

And, as you say, it's a shitty option. Smart Sound is one of the trademarked terms for it. If the show you're watching has quiet scenes, you hear this hissing noise start coming up, and when the next word comes out of a character it's loud and squelches down rapidly.

I have TiVo, and if I forget to fast-forward over the commercials, their loudness wakes me up and gets me to fast-forward anyway (or rather reverse to see how much of the show I just missed).

More annoying is how some stations are louder than others. Some channels on my cable differ in volume by 15 dB: one show is comfortable at -25 dB, another I have to turn to -10 dB.

Range compression (2, Informative)

gringer (252588) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437484)

There is an issue with Dynamic range compression [wikipedia.org] use by broadcasters and advertisers to increase the apparent volume of sound while staying within legislated limits. That trick is not something that can be easily regulated, unless you do something silly like requiring all sound clips to be stored on records.

Re:Range compression (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30437630)

So forget amplitude, measure the average power of the signal. Doesn't take loudness perception into account, but it's a good start.

Re:Range compression (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30437772)

i think the fact we can easily hear the difference means that it can be easily classified by sound engineers.

you'll find that tv companies have compliance document for independant producers technical specs, and in there they will say what is the "average" audio level (generally dialog) and what is the peak (i.e. kaboom!). Its not rocket science.

DRC is not a problem, its only when you apply post DRC gain to raise the average level up that it gets annoying.

stuff like that made me cancel my satellite subscription and now i don't own a tv. everything is available on torrents sans the crap that these companies put out (and seriously? if you pay a monthly subscription for tv you shouldn't have to watch damn adverts in the middle of the sodding shows you paid for. paying for the priviledge of watching adverts? feck off)

Volume and Loudness are different things (2, Informative)

mcsporran (832624) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437488)

I've seen this here in Oz, smarmy TV spokesdrones telling us that the volume is no higher during the ads, this is true, as they are discussing the peak value in decibels.

What they don't mention is the loudness (the amount of sound) has been cranked right up, which is why they are too "loud"

When we want to discuss loudness, they always come back with irrelevant facts about volume.

Loud ads are a major nuisance (1)

Borg453b (746808) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437516)

Let's get a similar legislation in the EU

( .. and this is coming from a guy that works with advertising )

commercials? (1)

the_Bionic_lemming (446569) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437542)

I fixed my problem. I turned off cable/satellite, signed up to x-box and netflix. No more commercials, and and currently have an online library of well over a years worth of stuff lined up to watch.

Did I mention no more commercials?

Legislate better volume controls (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437594)

There should be 2 volumes you can set on the TV.

1. Existing TV volume
2. Decibel limit

Once the decibel limit is reached the tv set compensates by turning itself down in real time.

Legislate that every TV sold has number 2 on the basis of health and safety. Stiff fines for not complying or trying to circumvent.

I resent the implication! (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437602)

Everybody knows the television broadcasters never turn up the volume for the commercials -- that would be unethical! They turn down the volume for the actual programs instead.

Whoring for votes (2, Interesting)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437622)

I am by no means opposed to regulating advertising; if anything, there is not nearly enough regulation of advertising. That said, unlike intrusive junk mail in all its forms -- postal, spam, telemarketing -- television advertising isn't attached to anything vital and is therefore easy to avoid: turn off the TV. No one needs television, and its one practical use -- news -- is much better satisfied by literally every other medium by which news is available. It's just a source of entertainment, and it is almost completely paid for by advertising. If you want to watch TV, the terrible hardship you must endure is hitting the mute button when the ads come up, you poor thing.

This is nothing more than a politician looking to score some easy votes by attacking something that everyone dislikes but which, since it actually harms no one, won't matter much if the bill disappears in committee and is never seen again. Congress' time would be better spent doing something about unavoidable forms of advertising instead of making a fuss about one of the few entirely avoidable forms.

How about instead banning drug commercials (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437628)

I've spent the past 5 years in Germany and Japan and while I don't watch much TV, I have been at hotels and just flicked it on for a little bit. While TV is pretty stupid the world round(Germany has a show about a monkey veterinarian and is obsessed with model shows, Japan has a lot of shows where you watch people watching TV....), what is refreshing is what I DIDNT see, namely commercials for drugs(most of which have a generic equivalent that does pretty much the same thing) and commercials for lawyers. Banning these drug commercials would pretty much automatically lower health care costs IMO.

This even happens on Hulu. (1)

Facegarden (967477) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437658)

This even happens a lot on Hulu, and I have to turn it down whenever those commercials come on, because its really annoying.

I don't really know if legislation is the answer, but honestly its annoying and I really wish *something* could be done about it, since the content distributors don't seem to care.
-Taylor

Not that simple (1)

dollar99 (922389) | more than 4 years ago | (#30437766)

The "volume" of commercials is exactly the same as television shows. Someone screaming on a TV show is just as loud as someone screaming on a commercial. The trick that commercials do is compress all of the audio into the high range. There are no quiet subtle sounds in a commercial. To make commercials not audibly jump out at you TV channels would have to run a filter with an algorithm to reduce the perceived volume of commercials. This could also easily be done by a human. Both methods require another step in the process which costs money, and is technically lowering the volume of commercials below that of TV shows. Advertisers will fight it forever or find another way around it.

You people are freaking crybabies. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30437794)

You people are freaking crybabies. Who cares how loud the commercials are? Get a life.

You wouldn't understand freedom if it knocked you upside the head.

Easy solution (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30437810)

The solution to the problem is very easy.

1. Put forth legislation saying that the new policy will be "anytime any consumer complains about commercial volume levels, the network will be fined $100, with no oversight or guards against abuse." I.e., threaten to put complete ultimate power in the viewers' hands. Bitchy viewers will be able to drain as much money from the companies as they want--the only limiting factor will be how many times they can dial the phone number.

2. Continue to advance this plan while the networks scream in protest. If they don't believe you will actually implement the new policy, it won't work.

3. Notice how suddenly commercials don't seem to be louder than the programs around they anymore. Almost as if the networks have always had the technical capacity but just never had the *motivation* to do it.

4. Quietly drop the legislation you no longer need.

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