The rules implementing the CALM Act have been changed. But don’t worry: the revised version won’t take effect for another year.
The CALM Act, designed to make LOUD COMMERCIALS a thing of the past, was enacted in late 2010. The Commission diligently undertook the necessary follow-up rulemaking to implement the Act. The resulting rules were adopted in December, 2011; they took effect in December, 2012, per the schedule dictated by Congress.
And, as we reported last year, by 2013 the rules already had to be amended.
That led to a further rulemaking proceeding which has now been concluded. Since Congress gave the FCC no discretion in the matter, the rule changes proposed last fall have been adopted.
If you want more background on all this, check out our post from last November. The short version: The CALM Act ordered the FCC to incorporate into its rules ATSC A/85 Recommended Practice (RP), a standard for monitoring and controlling the loudness level of digital TV programming. At the time, the latest and greatest version of that RP was vintage 2011, so that’s the one the FCC adopted. But, recognizing that standards and technology are constantly evolving, Congress also ordered the FCC to update its rules to incorporate any subsequent changes to the RP.
Sure enough, the RP was updated in early 2013, which meant that the FCC had to do likewise with its rules.
The change: where the RP refers to ITU-R BS.1770 (an ITU-recommended algorithm), that reference has been revised to specify “ITU-R BS.1770-3”, the most recent iteration of the algorithm. If you really must know, ITU-R BS.1770 is a “measurement algorithm [that] provides a numerical value that indicates the perceived loudness of the content (measured in units of LKFS – loudness, K-weighted, relative to full scale) by averaging the loudness of audio signals in all channels over the duration of the content.” Happy now?
While the FCC had no choice but to adopt the revision, it did have some discretion when it came to setting the effective date for the change.
In this case, the Commission has decided that the newly-revised rule will not take effect until June 4, 2015. The FCC’s thinking (seconded by the NAB) is that many TV licensees and MVPDs bought CALM Act-compliant gear when the initial rules took effect in 2012; according to the NAB, most of the gear deployed to comply with the 2011 ATSC A/85 RP can be modified through “relatively low-cost software upgrades” to comply with the 2013 version. Because of that, the Commission figures a year should be plenty of time to get the job done. (The FCC does note that anybody who wants to comply with the 2013 now rather than wait until next year may do so.)
The Commission advises that, come June 4, 2015, waivers may be available to those who can show that to comply with the 2013 RP would be “significantly burdensome”. But even if such a waiver is granted, the station or MVPD will still be expected to comply with the 2011 RP in the meantime. (A few stations already have waivers covering the 2011 RP, but those are set to expire no later than December 13, 2014.)