Regulation levels commercial spots
You may or may not notice something different about television starting today.
Commercials should not be louder than television programing.
The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation, or CALM, Act goes into full swing today and local broadcasters say they have the tools to comply.
Earlier this week, engineers at WBRE-TV and WYOU-TV were installing equipment to ensure they are ahead of the new regulation.
WBRE General Manager Robert Bee said he has received letters from viewers complaining that certain ads, and even some programming, is loud relative to the rest of shows and commercials broadcast on the channel. Viewers' experiences, he said, can vary.
If a commercial came across as being loud, it wasn't the station trying to draw attention to an advertisement, Bee said. Sometimes, software that stations use to regulate volume didn't do what it was supposed to. The advertisers often have a hand in overly loud spots, producing ads at a higher volume to catch people's attention.
"The government and the industry are working together to provide viewers with a great experience," Bee said.
WNEP-TV General Manager Chuck Morgan said his station has had the CALM equipment in place and operating for several months. Morgan said he has never received a complaint about loud commercials. Now, should they get a complaint, the equipment allows him to go back in time and listen to the station to determine if the volume was out of whack.
John Cadman, general manager of WOLF-TV, has gone through the process of "CALMing" four channels. He said it's a worthwhile investment.
"It was never our intention to blow you out of the seat," he said. "For viewers, this is a home run."
The law applies to broadcast and cable television stations. Public Broadcasting Service affiliates such as WVIA-TV, which run underwriter announcements rather than full advertisements, are exempt.
The digital era had made it more difficult to keep sound at an even level, said Matt Lightner, engineering consultant with the Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters. In the days of analog, it was easy for a broadcaster to control sound. Sound was processed and equipment had limiters that kept everything on the same level. With digital, whatever goes in, is what comes out and it can vary, Lightner said.
The new equipment is rather sophisticated. It will not only process sound, but track and control actual sound levels and perceived loudness. Broadcasters come from a culture of controlling and improving the quality of what goes out over the airwaves.
"We think it's good to be on the same level," he said. "You don't want to annoy people."
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