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.

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.

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.

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.”

CAANZ and Think TV members were earlier sent a
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.

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

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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