Quiet Commercials Balancing Act For TV Stations
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By Ian Bush
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Last week, it became illegal for TV broadcasters to air commercials louder than the shows we’re watching. But, it was a lot more complicated for stations than just turning down the volume.
“You should not be reaching for the remote to change the volume up or down to a comfort level.”
Scott Waz spends a lot of his time making sure our ears aren’t offended by what’s on TV. His company, Philadelphia Post, mixes spots for ad agencies in the area. The company follows standards that offer a fairly narrow range in which a commercial’s dialogue sits so it neither interferes with music nor makes us tune out.
“In the commercial world these days, too loud is ‘I’m going to mute you.’ The worst thing you can possibly do to an audience is give them the desire to mute your message,” especially with the fast-forward feature on DVRs already giving advertisers a headache.
Dolby makes a box broadcasters use to get in our heads — measuring a commercial for how we perceive loudness, and setting its audio levels so they’re consistent with other content. That’s how it’s supposed to work, anyway. Stations have had a year to get their act together on this, and the FCC is taking tips on its website from viewers who don’t hear the difference.