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Senate Votes to Turn Down Volume on TV Commercials

pickens (49171) writes | more than 3 years ago

Advertising 1

Hugh Pickens writes "Ever since television caught on in the 1950s, the FCC has been getting complaints about blaring commercials but concluded in 1984 there was no fair way to write regulations controlling the "apparent loudness" of commercials. Now AP reports that the Senate has unanimously passed a bill to require television stations and cable companies to keep commercials at the same volume as the programs they interrupt using industry guidelines on how to process, measure and transmit audio in a uniform way. Senator Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., a co-sponsor, says it's time to stop the use of loud commercials to startle viewers into paying attention. "TV viewers should be able to watch their favorite programs without fear of losing their hearing when the show goes to a commercial." The House has already passed similar legislation so before the new measure becomes law, minor differences between the two versions have to be worked out when Congress returns to Washington after the November 2 election."
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1 comment

Speech Compression (1)

Tisha_AH (600987) | more than 3 years ago | (#33758554)

Audio levels are measured in millivolts mV or decibels dB. If you look up the HDTV standards there are standards for the signal level of broadcast audio. At the time I was working on this a few years ago it was also interesting to note that the signal levels for commercials was indeed set to be much higher than the normal broadcast.

Another trick that the producers of commercials do is to use speech compression to run the commercial at the maximum allowable gain. This results in a higher average signal level and is also why commercials can sound harsh. Normal human speech has amplitude variations in addition to frequency (tonal) variations. When speech compression is used it will make everything equally loud and most folks sense this as if the announcer or commercial was "yelling" at them.

It seems that the folks who must review a commercial before it is put on the air do it without the benefit of listening to how crappy the commercial sounds after it is dumped through the speech compressor. Either that or they are just dicks and think that it is cool, as long as their message gets out there.

Speech compression does have it's advantages in AM radio broadcasting where the power level of the transmitter is varied, according to the audio level and quiet pauses in a broadcast results in a much lower RF power output. BTW, this was also one of the advantages of FM radio, it transmits a constant carrier level and modulates "sideways" away from the carrier instead of up and down on the carrier..

I had worked up a hardware design using some OP amps to detect the presence of compressed audio and to kick in an attenuator on the audio signal until the compression went away. When I built my prototype I had set in 10 dB of attenuation. When I tried it out, many commercials were attenuated back to just background noise until the regular broadcast resumed. It was a "jinky" circuit and took quite a bit of twiddling to get it to operate fast enough to keep you from being blasted for a second or two at the beginning of a commercial or from attenuating the sound levels of things like action movies. I gave up on the project a few years ago and just DVR record everything I want to watch and skip through the commercials. I know, I know, I could have implemented it in software... I am a hardware hacker and do a minimum of programming.

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