Insert CALM cliché here
The CALM Act became law last year, and the resulting FCC regulations go in effect on Dec. 13, 2012. Its primary purpose is to reduce the sound level variations between commercials and programs. Its secondary purpose, which the FCC encourages and I completely agree with, is to eliminate AGCs, compressors, limiters and other downstream audio processing gear that reduces or alters dynamic range as it was originally intended. It also gives producers a standardized definition of loudness to use as an absolute reference. It does not, however, eliminate the need for golden ears.
How the CALM Act affects your facility depends on where it fits in the program creation and distribution chain. The beauty of the CALM Act, and similar laws on other countries, is that it recognizes world-wide groups of TV audio experts and gives them an opportunity to scientifically define repeatable loudness measurements and to incorporate it into industry standards and the law. In its simplest terms, the CALM Act is about making viewers happy. How it’s accomplished is where it gets interesting.
Loud commercials aren’t unique to North America. Most of the world thinks TV commercials are too loud. Brazil passed a loudness law in the 1990s. In the U.S., the CALM Act itself simply states the problem and directs the FCC implement rules to fix it. The FCC only regulates broadcasters with call letters, and multichannel video programming distributors (MVPDs) such as large cable, satellite and IPTV. It does not regulate cable or broadcast networks. The FCC developed a brilliant strategy to enforce the rules on those that it can regulate by providing an incentive to networks, producers and providers to certify content CALM Act compliance.
Larger cable and satellite MVPDs don’t have the time, equipment or people to examine and certify all content on all channels before it is distributed to homes. In less than a month, each must ensure its own inserted commercials are in compliance and push for compliance of all programs and commercials within that it carries. Neither the law nor the FCC Report and Order require certification. The market will.