New advertising law makes the mute button moot

13 Feb

The Logitech S715i iPod dock (in front) doesn’t sound as good as the Zeppelin, but, for the price – just $150 – you can’t beat it.

February 13, 2012

By Geoff Meeker

It’s incredibly annoying, we’re acutely aware of it, yet we grudgingly accept it.

I’m talking about excessively loud TV commercials; the kind that jar you out of your comfy TV trance and send you reaching for the remote control to kill the volume.

Yeah, you know what I mean. Who hasn’t been startled and irritated by it?

Late last year, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced new regulations, requiring broadcasters to ensure that the sound level is the same for both commercials and regular programming.

“Over the years, we have seen a steady increase in consumer complaints about loud ads,” said Konrad von Finckenstein, Q.C., Chairman of the CRTC, in a news release. “Broadcasters have allowed ear-splitting ads to disturb viewers and have left us little choice but to set out clear rules that will put an end to excessively loud ads. The technology exists, let’s use it.”

Earlier in 2011, the CRTC launched a public consultation on the issue of loud commercials, a process that generated over 7,000 comments from Canadians. Those comments were overwhelmingly of the view that ads were too loud and action was required.

The law goes into effect on September 1, 2012.

I know what you’re thinking: only a handful of channels originate in Canada. The vast majority of our television gets piped in directly from the U.S. How are we going to control that?

Well, interestingly enough, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States, counterpart of our CRTC, is passing a law that will also make those loud ads illegal. The Commercial Advertisement Loudness Mitigation Act was introduced just days after the CRTC announcement, and will come into effect in December 2012.

“Most of us have … experienced this ourselves: You’re watching your favorite television program, or the news, and all of a sudden, a commercial comes on, and it sounds like someone turned up the volume — but no one did. Today, the FCC is quieting a persistent problem of the television age: loud commercials,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said, in his new release.

This is quite a significant development. No, it won’t prevent wars or abolish poverty and starvation. Loud TV ads are most definitely a “first world problem.”  They are relatively minor irritants, but they afflict many millions of people every day. This is a most welcome development indeed.

DAVID VS. GOLIATH

By now, you know all about my Zeppelin iPod dock, and are probably tired of hearing about it (unless you have one, in which case you totally get it).

Two weeks ago, I told you about sending the Zeppelin away for repairs. I needed replacement speakers for several weeks, so I seized the moment and purchased the Logitech s715i, a small, portable speaker dock ($150).

I’ve mentioned the Logitech before, based on unanimously positive reviews, but hadn’t heard the unit myself – until now. And, thanks to eight speakers – six on the front and two bass drivers on the back – the sound is exceptional, for the price and size of the unit.

As a bonus, it has a rechargeable battery with an eight-hour life, so you can take it with you, or enjoy decent sound during a power failure (it uses less power while running off the battery, so the sound is not as deep). It’s portable, fitting easily in carry-on or suitcase, and is ideal for hotel room or cottage. However, there is no handle and the iPod projects precariously from the top, so it’s not suitable as a carry-around boombox.

I couldn’t resist – I performed the David vs. Goliath test, comparing the Logitech side by side against the Zeppelin.

The Zeppelin won, of course. There was really no comparison.

If you want to $700 invest in a speaker dock, take the Zeppelin for a test flight. However, if you’re looking to spend $400, check out the Logitech s715i. You will be pleasantly surprised, and may keep an extra $250 where it feels the best – in your pocket or purse.

Geoff Meeker is a communications consultant with a soft spot for technology. He also writes a blog about the local media scene, which is hosted at http://www.thetelegram.com.


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