The FCC is scheduled to consider a Report and Order on implementing the Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation (CALM) Act when it holds its Dec. 13 open meeting.
The CALM Act prevents digital television commercials from being transmitted at a volume louder than the program material they accompany. In enacting the law, Congress gave the FCC till Dec. 15 to establish regulations implementing the act. The regulations will apply to television stations, cable and satellite TV operators, and other multichannel video programming distributors.
Congress directed the commission to implement the CALM Act based upon the ATSC A/85 recommended practice for establishing and maintaining audio loudness for DTV. The recommended practice includes Annex J, specifying AC-3 (Dolby Digital) commercial audio loudness requirements for broadcasters and others. In late July, ATSC expanded its loudness management techniques with the release of Annex K to cover alternative audio systems.
The challenge of A/85 implementation for broadcasters and the commission alike may have less to do with actually codifying A/85 as part of FCC rules and more to do with the individual human perception of millions of viewers nationwide. That is because viewers who perceive a station is transmitting “loud” commercials now will be able to allege noncompliance with commission rules.
“It is easy to make a meter happy, but is this enough to satisfy a consumer, and if so, how true will the results be to the original program?” asked Tim Carroll, founder and president of Linear Acoustic, which develops multichannel loudness control, upmixing and distribution solutions for digital television. Broadcasters, in particular, not only may be facing fines for transmitting commercials perceived as too loud, but also potentially could face negative impact on their licenses, said Carroll.
As a result, he added, there is a danger that audio quality could take a back seat to compliance.
Editor’s note: Broadcast Engineering will hold a webinar examining new real-time loudness monitoring and correction technology as well as compliance with new CALM Act implementation rules. Click here to register.