Loud TV Commercials No More: CRTC's Ad Volume Limit Rules Start In September

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The CRTC has ruled that commercials can't have their volume pumped up by broadcasters. | Spinal Tap Prod

OTTAWA - Canadian couch potatoes, take heart: your days of lunging for the remote to silence a blaring TV commercial may soon be an end.

New CRTC rules that go into effect Saturday require digital broadcasters to ensure that television programs and the ads that break them up all come in at the same volume level.

Aggravatingly loud TV commercials have been a consumer bugaboo in Canada for years.

Last year, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission got some 7,000 "Yes" responses when they asked viewers if they thought the ads were too loud.

The regulator called it an unusually high response to a request for comment, one that was 10 times higher than the number of complaints it had received in the previous three years combined.

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"Broadcasters have allowed ear-splitting ads to disturb viewers and have left us little choice but to set out clear rules that will put an end to excessively loud ads,'' then-CRTC chairman, Konrad von Finckenstein, said a year ago.

The agency produced draft rules last December and gave broadcasters time to respond. In May, it said September would be the deadline to muzzle the commercials.

The commission says a 2009 international standard for measuring and controlling television signals will apply in order to minimize fluctuations in loudness between programming and commercials.

"They are designed to ensure that you do not have to reach for the remote control when a show cuts to an advertisement," the commission said in a news release.

"Broadcasters are also responsible for maintaining the volume of the programs themselves, to ensure that both programs and advertisements are transmitted at a relatively even volume."

The new standard applies only to digital signals. Under separate orders from the CRTC, most broadcasters have abandoned over-the-air analog broadcasting in Canadian markets.

The results of the new requirements remain to be seen, however — and the regulator is already taking steps to mute public expectations.

Loudness can be relative, it warned: an ad at a normal volume could still sound ear-splitting if it follows a relatively quiet portion of a program.

Consumers are also being urged to complain directly to broadcasters if they still believe ads are too loud, and to contact the CRTC if the problem persists.

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