Television broadcasters around the country will soon face new regulatory strictures when the FCC begins enforcing the Commercial Audio Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act on Dec. 13.
The law addresses the so-called "loud commercial" problem that startles families off their sofas when blaring ads contrast with quieter programming, sending popcorn - and complaints to television stations - flying.
Joe Addalia, director of technology projects for Hearst Television, was tasked with making sure all of his company's stations deliver CALM-compliant audio to those viewers.
It wouldn’t be surprising if someone whose company owns 29 TV stations in the United States, reaching around 18 percent of the country's households, and programs 62 discrete channels might be a bit nervous about compliance, but to the contrary, Addalia is pretty calm himself.
"CALM isn't going away," Addalia points out. "We knew we had to address compliance head on. Hearst doesn't take shortcuts, we don't compromise on quality, and we don't look for Band-Aid solutions just to get by,” he said.
Addalia chose the Linear Acoustic AERO.air transmission audio loudness manager and LQ-1000 loudness quality monitor as the standard equipment pairing to control and meter loudness at all Hearst stations.
It was during his research that Addalia discovered some of the other projects he was working on -including finding standardized solutions for audience measurement encoding, upmixing, downmixing and better-quality audio processing - could also be accomplished with a single product, which turned out to be the AERO.air.
“We get full control over our audio, which sounds fantastic, a solid downmixed signal, Nielsen encoding located where it's supposed to be in the chain, and CALM-compliant loudness control in a single 2RU box," he says. That type of consolidation is important in Hearst's view. "Stations get into trouble when we make things too complex.”
Addalia is putting AERO.air on the main HD channel of all Hearst stations. When he is finished, the goal is to have “identical, fully redundant backup transmission chains” for every station, each with AERO.air, says Addalia.