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TelevisionWeek is teaming up with TV industry veteran Marianne Paskowski. The blog will give Marianne a forum to convey her deep knowledge of the industry and pass along some of the juicy morsels she's hearing on the grapevine. Marianne has covered the TV industry from the inside out and top to bottom, and TVWeek's readers are bound to benefit from her sharp eyes, ears and wit. TVWeek.com invites readers to jump online, chime in and pick Marianne's brain on the latest industry news.

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Marianne Paskowski



Rep. Eshoo Wants TV Advertisers to Turn It Down

June 17, 2008 4:08 PM

Finally, a possible solution for blaring TV spots that send you scrambling to the remote to turn down the volume before deafness strikes.

This week congresswoman Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., said she would introduce a bill pushing for the Federal Communications Commission to create new rules to reduce commercial noise.

This sounds like small potatoes given the range of issues at the FCC’s doorstep, and realistically, I’m not so sure this is possible. The noisiest spots seem to appear on local cable pods, caused by some needed but seldom done tweaking of the ad interconnect.

But if it works, people would jump for joy. I can’t tell you how many times my friend David has asked me to write a blog on this topic because it really, really bugs him.

So David, this one’s for you. Belated happy birthday!

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Comments (10)

Arthur :

Marianne,

This is not a new issue. In fact it's one of the oldest complains in broadcasting going back to the days of radio. In fact the FCC already has regulations on the books, replete with fines, limiting the volume level of commercials relative to program content.

And believe it or not, nearly every ad is in compliance.

The reason you must dive for the remote is that unlike programs which have highs and lows in the audio, many advertisers cheat by compressing the whole spot so that the entire soundtrack is just under the legal limit.

I'm not sure it's practical to create more specific regulations that, say, set a maximum on the percentage of a commercial which can be compressed. It may even be unconstitutional, or close enough to deter the FCC.

Marianne Paskowski:

Arthur,

Thanks for the education, as usual. But with the advent of cable, and the local interconnect ads, that's when I really began to hear the difference between programming and ads.

The National Association of Broadcasters thinks this rep introducing the bill might have a leg to stand on, why is that? You think not.

Long ago, I used to call and complain to my various cable companies, so many providers, so little time, and they could modulate the local TV ads, but it never lasted.

If Bose has done it with modulating audio noise and the S&P oscillator can drone out the gossip, hedge fund BS,, and other dealings on individual stock in your portfolio in a routine tech overlay, tell me why this cannot be done with a TV commercial.

I'm sure hoping David loves his birthday present, if he's still awake!Thanks for contributing to his party.

Thanks,
Marianne

Dr. Foster K. Williamson, PhD:

Dear Ms. Paskowski:

We have long been concerned at The Institute with the problem of poorly modulated, overly loud commercials on TV. Hence we have been studying the issue for years.

We trained a pair of chimpanzees to watch television and to activate a switch each time the set volume changed significantly, for which they would receive a peanut as a reward. We compared 3 years of peanut dispensing to second-by-second television programming logs, finding an amazingly high correlation (at the .9 level) between the onset of commercial pods and the dispensing of peanuts, even when one of the chimps managed to lodge peanuts in each ear.

Even worse, the experience caused a classic log-linear lagged response, the data revealing the dreaded Stochastic Simian Syndrome, augmented by earwax. Our exclusive Darwinian Projection Model suggests that, had Rep. Eschoo chewed a peanut insstad of an 'es,' she would have won the support of FCC chairman Kevin Martin, apparently genetically related and sympathetic to the peanut-impaired chimp.

In response to the statistical proof we sent to Rupert Murdoch, we understand he has airlifted fresh sacks of peanuts to the FCC.

Yours in the objectivity of statistical algorithms,

Dr. Foster K. Williamson, PhD
a/k/a "Doc Willy"

Marianne Paskowski:

Oy,
Oh Doc Willy, what can I possibly add to the scholarly lore that you and Arthur have not raised?

I believe the FCC will turn a "deaf" ear to this bill. I have no idea who this chick from California is who is proposing the bill, but I hope she stays the course.

As always, thanks, I think,
Ms. Paskowski

Cruiser:

Yo, Blondie --

Amazing. The good Rep. Eschoo sidesteps trivial concerns like war, healthcare and the economy to ensure that she doesn't have to stir from her chair to lower the volume when TV commercials run.

Loosen up! Buy a set with a remote!

I suggest she turn her attention to a truly frightening but little-reported calamity in America: the belly button lint left behind after wearing imported cotton tee shirts.

Cruisin not bruisin

Marianne Paskowski:

Cruiser,

For God's sake, I didn't say she should be knighted for sainthood. Who on the planet is going to solve energy and ag problems? Our stupid government just voted down a tax rebate for companies investing in wind and solar and alternative energy sources.

Maybe this chick can get this bill through and give us one less thing to stew about. I have a remote, and I'm about ready to put you on remote control.

m

1975, my ninth professional year, I moved from Chicago to LA.

To put food on the table, I worked at NBC Burbank in on-air operations for NBC Westcoast and KNBC, Ch 4, during my first four months there. We would record the Eastcoast feeds in Burbank and then three hours later play them back and roll Westcoast commercials to cover Eastcoast commercials plus waltz KNBC through its Station Breaks.

The audio on commercials has been, (as pointed out above), compressed since they figured out how to do it. Having my audio mixer "ride the level" was something I would direct him to do, but he had restrictions as to how much he could do and still meet required levels of Volume Units.

As a viewer it is a pain in the tush. I use my "mute" button a lot.

There are much bigger issues in today's world than this, but in an election year every politician in office wants to at least seem like they are active and earning their keep.

Ca-sara-sara.
Peter Bright

Andy S.:

Much as I sympathize with your complaint, I think this is an issue where, as with clutter, we should let the marketplace decide. If commercial loudness reaches a level where it's driving viewers away, then broadcasters will have to change or suffer the consequences. I believe that things like clutter and loudness are already having a negative effect on viewership; I know they've had a big impact on my personal viewing habits. With TiVo and the other new technologies available, not to mention all the channel choices we have, viewers are empowered enough without Congress getting involved.

Marianne Paskowski:

Andy,
You're probably right here. I'm so ticked off with congress not giving solar and wind alternative energy companies tax breaks, I could just spit.

I also had another shocker today, my broker asked me where the oil (gas, cars, etc.) was coming from. I said Saudi Arabia.

He said wrong, Canada. What the hell is going on here and how come we don't know this stuff. Personally, I think the cable news nets do a terrible job with covering business.I digress.

MP

Dave Sanders:

You have your morons in NYC we have ours out here

WCD.....and I know this one...her black jag is noisy!!!

she isn't good lookin either...hahah

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