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The Globe and Mail

Listen up: Broadcasters ordered to dial down TV ad volume


Canada's broadcast regulator has been asking TV providers to turn down the racket in loud commercials, and now it is making that an order.

On Tuesday, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission published changes to some of its regulations that govern the broadcasting industry. Controlling the volume of commercial messages is now part of the rules that the companies that own TV channels, distribution systems such as cable and satellite services, and video-on-demand offerings, must follow.

The change to the rules comes after the CRTC gave notice last September, that the TV industry had one year to use international standards to control loudness in ads they put on television. TV companies must have the loudness under control by the start of the fall TV season this coming September.

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"The rules we published bring us a step closer to our goal of eliminating loud TV ads," Leonard Katz, acting chairman of the CRTC said in a statement on Tuesday. "We have every expectation that the industry will take the necessary steps to meet our deadline and provide relief to viewers."

Complaints to the regulator from TV viewers about the issue have been growing louder. In 2010, the CRTC received 304 complaints about noisy commercials, a more than 100-per-cent jump from the previous year. In 2011, that number ballooned again to 1,749 complaints. So far in 2012, the CRTC has received 182 complaints about loud ads.

Also last year, the regulator opened the changes to the rules for public comment, and received more than 7,000 comments.

The rule change, then, comes as no surprise to the industry. Companies such as Rogers Communication Inc., Quebecor Inc. and Shaw Communications Inc. have already begun installing equipment to control loudness on the channels they own, in order to meet the September deadline.

The new regulations state that broadcasters, cable and satellite providers, and video-on-demand services must use the same standards that U.S. TV companies have already been told to implement in order to control loudness in their commercials. The CALM Act (which stands for Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation) was passed in the U.S. in December 2010, requiring the Federal Communications Commission to ensure that TV networks follow standards to make sure commercials are broadcast at a reasonable volume.

Those standards were set out in a 2009 recommendation by the Advanced Television Systems Committee or ATSC, an international group that works to develop TV standards.

In January, a Canadian team won an Emmy for software technology that measures loudness, and assisted in the ATSC developing its broadcast standard. The Communications Research Centre (CRC), an arm of Industry Canada, won a Technology & Engineering Emmy Award for its work.

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The growth in consumer correspondence with the CRTC over loudness in TV commercials

















2012 (so far)





*Breakdown of complaints/questions/comments not available

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