WASHINGTON —Changes are at hand for regulating TV audio loudness levels, and the government is seeking commiseration on timing. The Federal Communications Commission recently proposed updating the technical parameters of its CALM Act rules. The commission’s proposal to update the rules has been published in the Federal Register, which triggered the comment period. Comments are now due on or before Dec. 27, 2013, with replies due by Jan. 13, 2014.
The CALM, or Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation, Act, directed the FCC to outlaw TV jarring audio disparity between programming and commercials. The resulting rules went into effect last December and set target loudness at -24 LFKS based on an anchor element in the programming; typically dialog.
The law also directed the FCC to update the rule anytime the underlying recommendation changed; in this case ATSC A/85, a Recommended Practice developed by the Advanced Television Systems Committee. The original CALM rule was based on the ATSC RP published July 25, 2011. An updated version was published March 12, 2013. The RP itself is based on BS.1770, a loudness measurement algorithm established by the International Telecommunication Union. The ITU updated it to BS.1770-3, which triggered the ATSC A/85 update.
“As a practical matter, this change seems to be designed to prevent advertisers from using silent passages to offset excessively loud passages when calculating the average loudness of program material,” the commission said in its Oct. 31 Order and Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. “Thus, once this Successor RP is implemented, consumers may notice a modest decrease in the perceived loudness of certain commercials.”
The NPRM further states that TV stations and cable operators may need “a software or device upgrade for their equipment. Accordingly, we believe that it is appropriate to afford a reasonable amount of time for affected parties to implement the Successor RP.”
Given that TV providers had to buy gear for the December 2012 deadline, the commission is asking for feedback on the costs and timing associated with implementing the new RP. It is proposing a one-year deadline from the release of its ultimate Report and Order.
“In setting an effective date, we seek to ensure that consumers can benefit in a timely fashion from the improved method of controlling loudness, while avoiding imposing unreasonable burdens on affected parties,” the NPRM states.
Dec. 13, 2011: “Updated: FCC Issues Rules to CALM TV Ads”
For locally inserted commercials, TV stations and cable operators will have to demonstrate they’ve installed the proper equipment and software. For national ads embedded by a network, the network itself must certify that it is within CALM compliance. The networks must make their certification available to all distributors.
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