Nothing makes me reach for the remote control faster than when the barely-audible dialogue of an older show suddenly switches to the overpowering voice-over for a laundry detergent. Sometimes I drop the volume down only to raise it later when the ads come to an end, but mostly I just hit the mute button. Take that, loud, annoying ads. Ugh. There’s got to be a better way.
After years of essentially doing nothing, the CRTC is no longer ignoring an issue that has been a thorn in the side of TV viewers for ages: The sometimes dramatic difference between the volume level of the programme being watched and the commercials that air during the programme.
The commission announced today that they are seeking comment on “possible technical and regulatory measures that would ensure commercials are not perceived to be louder than the programs they accompany.”
“Loud ads on television can disrupt an otherwise enjoyable program and are a source of significant annoyance for Canadians,” said Konrad von Finckenstein, Q.C., Chairman of the CRTC in a press release. “Viewers should not have to adjust the volume at every commercial break, and we will work with the broadcasting industry to find an acceptable solution.”
I can only hope that this isn’t empty rhetoric on the part of the CRTC. Nothing would make me happier than being able to watch TV without constantly riding the volume control, or shelling out big bucks for an after-market solution like Geffen’s Auto Volume Stabilizer.
You would think that there would already be some sort of standard for an issue as widespread as this, and you’d be right: the ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee) created just such a standard back in November of 2009. The CRTC is well aware of this and is using this standard as the starting point of their public consultation.
As the process evolves, they are hoping to get feedback from all parties on:
how broadcasters currently control the loudness of commercials the technical changes, as well as associated costs and practical implications, that would be required to implement the Advanced Television Systems Committee’s recommended practice the appropriate timeframe in which any changes should be implemented possible regulatory changes required to ensure the effective control of the loudness of commercials, and the extent to which technical and regulatory changes are applicable to cable and satellite companies and video-on-demand services.
There’s not much time if you want to make your views heard (you may have to shout) – the deadline for submissions is April 18, 2011.
You have three options for contacting the CRTC and sharing your thoughts:
- Go to this page and scroll down until you see the link for the Broadcasting interventions/comments form. We can’t provide a direct link here because you’re required to agree to a statement before proceeding to the form itself.
- Write to the Secretary General, CRTC, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0N2, with the following subject line: “Broadcasting Notice of Consultation CRTC 2011-102”
- Do the same thing but submit via fax at 819-994-0218
What’s more annoying than commercials? I’ll tell you. It’s commercials that jump on to your TV screen at what seems like twice the volume of the show you were just watching. Depending on the volume level of the program, the difference can be so abrupt that you instinctively reach for your remote’s mute button because dialing-down the volume can’t deal with the deafening roar fast enough.
I might actually watch more commercials were it not for the intrusiveness of this volume change. Well, maybe not – these days we tend to watch more PVR’d content than ever and that 30-second skip button is the most worn out on the whole remote… I just love it.
But if you don’t have a PVR (and if not, why the heck not?) or for those times when watching live TV is only way to go (sports events, award shows, news programs etc.) you’re just going to have to live with that annoying volume problem.
Or maybe not.
If you happen to have $179 USD burning a hole in your pocket and you are fed up with those obnoxiously loud ads, Gefen has the solution for you. Their GefenTV Auto Volume Stabilizer is a small device that sits with the rest of your TV gear and serves as a middle-man between your source (likely a cable or satellite box) and your audio receiver. It can handle 3 types of input – digital coax, optical, or good-ol-analog RCA. The same obviously, are available as outputs. You can select which of these inputs will be in use via a handy remote (yes, another remote), but only one at a time. When turned on, the Stabilizer does one thing and one thing only – manages all those highs and lows in volume level so that you aren’t constantly reaching for the remote.
If you use the device in conjunction with a Blu-ray player or other source and find that the auto-leveling isn’t required, you can easily disable it with the built-in “bypass” switch.
I haven’t tried the Stabilizer myself yet so I can’t speak to how effective it is, but at $179 it had better work exactly as advertised or Gefen will have some pretty grumpy customers on their hands.
But whether you like the idea of the Stabilizer or not, the real question is this: Why is there even a need for such a device?
My plea to the cable and satellite companies: Make this product redundant by implementing similar technology at your head-ends, so that the signal you’re sending to your subscribers is already pre-leveled. We’ve got HD, we’ve got 5.1 surround sound, even on-demand where it’s available, so why not good clean and leveled volume for all of TV you choose to watch? Gefen may not thank you, but we will.