Pump down the volume: TVNZ first off the block with new TVC audio standards

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  • November 23, 2012
  • Deirdre Robert
Pump down the volume: TVNZ first off the block with new TVC audio standards

No one likes to be shouted at, not least by the likes of the Big Save Furniture lady and Harvey Norman, who for the past goodness knows how many years have had sales on every other day apparently worthy of an aural assualt. But that’s all set to change this coming Sunday, when Television New Zealand decreases the decibel limit of its television advertising as part of a sound compression agreement signed by all the major networks.

Although TVNZ, MediaWorks and Maori TV have all signed the agreement, which takes effect from January 1, 2013, in a bid to “just get on with it” TVNZ is set to be first off the block, implementing the new audio loudness specifications from this Sunday.

“We know how viewers feel, so why delay when we can improve their viewing experience and remove an obstacle to your advertising success,” said TVNZ chief executive Kevin Kenrick in a written statement.

Independent consumer research conducted by the broadcaster in July this year found that 94 percent of 18-54 year old respondents noticed the difference between ad and programme volumes. One in three said that they perceive louder ad breaks to be a “big” or “very big” issue in their TV viewing experience.

Although ads aren’t actually in fact louder, they appear that way because of a commonly used compression technique. As explained on the TVNZ website:

“The sound level of quieter passages is increased so there is more sound power in the range where the ear is most sensitive. The objective is to give those items a greater audible impact. In contrast, many television programmes do not have their sound compressed to the same extent and therefore, the differences between programmes and other material can be quite marked."

Broadcasters, CAANZ and Think TV members were earlier sent a letter detailing the changes and technical specifications the audio changes would bring to television commercial and content submissions.

It states that TVCs submitted after January 1 next year must conform to the new specification in order to be accepted.

“In line with global standards, New Zealand broadcasters are endorsing a more seamless audio experience for viewers across commercial and channel programmes.
“There has been a lot of interest around the world in TV commercial audio loudness, culminating in legislation in the US and an aggressive code of practice in the UK and Europe. This “loudness” has only been quantified into an agreed measurement as recently as 2007, but since then, monitoring equipment and software has become both readily available and inexpensive.”

TVNZ says it will take responsibility for adjusting the volume of commercials submitted ahead of the January 1 deadline that don’t comply with the new standard, so that they meet the -24dB technical standard.

Sky Television, who owns Prime, is the only broadcaster to not have signed the sound compression agreement, though it has said it will comply with the changes.

And is it just us, or has Harvey Norman already changed tack with its adverting in a preemptive move ahead of the changes? TVCs as of late appear a lot more subtle and quieter than their maligned counterparts of old.

For those keen to check out the technical specifications, a guide to the technical standards can be found here.

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