Insights Broadcast Committee of Advertising Practice publishes new guidance plus technical update to BCAP Code Rule governing sound levels in advertising.

BCAP says that its underlying approach to protecting viewers from overly noisy content has not changed, but wider developments within the broadcasting industry provide an opportunity for it to highlight good practice and remind broadcasters of their responsibilities under the Code.

Therefore, BCAP says, the underlying standard in the Code that broadcasters must adhere to remains the same.  Rule 4.7 relies on measuring “subjective loudness”, which is an algorithm based on human perceptions of sound.  The standard required by the Code is that the subjective loudness of advertising must be “consistent and in line” with that of the surrounding programming.  In simple terms, individual ads must not exceed the level of the surrounding programming.

This ensures a consistent viewer experience, BCAP says.  In the past, the Advertising Standards Authority, in enforcing the rule, has received significant numbers of complaints from viewers where loudness levels have been poorly matched, for instance, due to the use of post-production techniques like dynamic range compression.

The Digital Production Partnership (DPP), together with broadcast industry members such as ITV, BBC, Sky, C4 and C5, has been working to standardise the technical specification for all aspects of commercial delivery.  Importantly, the DPP has adopted the European Broadcast Union (EBU) Recommendation R128 on Loudness normalisation and permitted maximum level of audio signals.  This technical standard introduces a fixed average level for the loudness of all content.  In practice, this should contribute further to ensuring that awkward jumps in the level of loudness that can annoy viewers are significantly reduced.

Despite acknowledging the DPP’s lead in furthering industry good practice, BCAP does not consider that there is a case to change the standard set by the BCAP Code.  This will continue as a minimum requirement to ensure that viewers are appropriately protected.  Instead, BCAP says, the guidance and changes “serve as a reminder to broadcasters of their responsibilities and an opportunity to find out more about the regulatory and technical framework around the sound levels issue”.