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The creative part of the commercial industry has balked at having any elements of their ads regulated by the government.
Creative community resisting CALM
“The audio post houses don’t seem to have their hands around this yet,” said Wayne Dykes, CEO of SpotGenie, a digital advertising delivery service in Atlanta, GA. “We get spots quite frequently that are not compliant with the CALM Act, and we either try to auto-fix them ourselves or, if time permits, we kick it back. But if we’re up against an airdate, we have to fix it ourselves, which brings up a number of creative issues.”
Indeed, the creative part of the commercial industry has balked at having any elements of their ads regulated by the government. Before President Obama signed the CALM Act into law (in 2010), the ad community lobbied against mandated audio levels. Apparently, creatives are not good at adhering to rules.
“I know the deadline has come and past for the CALM Act to be enforced, but we still see some people dragging their heels and not doing anything differently,” Dykes said. “You have to remember that the audio post house is trying to impress their client in the mixing suite, so the higher level is key to a good listening experience. Once the client approves the spot, the post house feels its job is done and sends it along down the chain for someone else to worry about.”
Passing the buck appears to be the prevailing strategy, since the FCC has stated that the entity that delivers the spot is the one that will be fined if viewers complain. If professional mixers are following the -10db spec that the industry has always adhered to, it can easily be fixed to comply with the -24 LKFS spec mandated as part of the CALM Act. Yet Dykes said he regularly sees local and national spot audio levels a lot higher than that.
“I think producers are starting to understand that if their levels are way out of spec, someone along the broadcast chain is going to squash that audio to make it compliant, and that compromises the integrity of that ad,” said Robert Haskitt, chief marketing officer at Extreme Reach, a web and TV advertising delivery, management and measurement company based in Needham, Mass. “No one wants to risk a fine by the government. So, what we would prefer is to have a conversation with a broadcaster to make sure everyone’s goals are met. We never want to miss an air date because the audio level is too high.”
Extreme Reach regularly works with more than 1000 post-production houses around the country and finds audio levels are all over the place. At this point, Haskitt said, most are compliant, but 15 to 20 percent need some type of audio fix. Some ads go directly from an editor’s workstation at a post house to a cloud-based server operated by Extreme Reach and then on to the final broadcast outlet. This can happen within minutes. Other times, an ad has to be remixed, which takes extra time and money.