TV ads up to twice as loud as programmes

By Ann Newbery

There's good reason to mute the TV during the ad breaks - commercials are not only louder than the shows, sometimes they're twice the volume.

Herald on Sunday tests have confirmed what viewers have long suspected: your favourite programme is played at a much quieter level than the noisy advertisements it is sandwiched between.

Sound levels recorded on TV One, TV2 and TV3 revealed consistently higher maximum decibel levels for commercials than for programmes. One commercial peaked almost eight decibels louder - equivalent to nearly a doubling in volume.

And while viewers may mute the TV in frustration, advertisers do it hoping their sales-pitch will reach those out in the kitchen making a cuppa during the breaks.

"Clients like to hear their stuff on TV as loud as possible," said Sound Post managing partner Steve Finnigan whose Auckland company works on both commercials and programmes. "Its always been that way," he said.

He conceded most TV ads sounded like they were at full bore. "There's not a lot of room for subtlety," he said. "Every client wants their 30-second ad to stand out."

TV networks were not to blame as they were provided with commercials in which the sound had been "compressed", he said.

"It's really nothing to do with the networks, but what they're being fed," said Mr Finnigan. His Auckland company works on both commercials and TV dramas like TV3's recent mini-series Doves of War and TVNZ's Orange Roughies.

"They (the networks) don't have a special button that makes the ads sound louder or quieter than a TV programme. It's the fact that the ads are processed more intensely," he said.

It's a practice that outrages Remuera viewer Alan Walker. "I don't think I'm a lone wolf on this issue," said Mr Walker. "The situation is crazy. And it's really, really annoying."

But the TV networks said they did not believe it to be a big issue as they received only a handful of complaints each year.

Consumers' Institute chief executive David Russell said there was no real recourse for viewers. His advice? "Definitely complain to the networks and exercise your right over the remote control."

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