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Sound intensity of television

Improvement of the comfort of listening since 2012

Recommendations of the CSA

The calendar of application of the recommendations of the CSA allowed an improvement of the practices at the beginning of the year 2012.

These recommendations, described in the deliberation of the Council n° 2011-29 of July 19th, 2011, apply to the distribution programmes, and take account of the efforts under consideration in production such as benches in the works undertaken by the CST with the FICAM and the HD Forum. Indeed, the editors, who provide the service of diffusion, have to compose with the contents ready to diffuse (digital cassettes or files) which are provided to them: this is why the recommendations take account of the date of production of the programs considered.

The recommendation aims at homogenizing the sound intensity of the programs and the advertisements by fixing a target value, in diffusion, to -23 LUFS, together with tolerances according to the types of programs and their year of production.

All the chains concerned with the French regulation must thus have a sound intensity, on average day labourer, equal to -23 LUFS, which makes it possible to control the strong variations of “volume” at the time of the passage of a chain with another (zapping). Since January 1st, 2013 , they must also make sure that each diffused program respects, according to its nature and its year of production, the following targets:


Type of program Parameter Target value Tolerance (in diffusion)
Together of the chain Average intensity over 24:00 -23 LUFS
Advertisements Average intensity ≤-23 LUFS
Intensity short time ≤-20 LUFS
Programs produced before January 1st, 2012
Average intensity -23 LUFS -2 to +3 LU
Sound dynamics dialogues -23 LUFS +7 LU if possible
Programs produced after January 1st, 2012 Average intensity -23 LUFS ±1 LU
Sound dynamics dialogues
-23 LUFS +7 LU
Level of LRA ≤ 20 LU, if possible > 5LU

It appears however illusory to hope to delete any variation of sound intensity during the diffusion of the advertisements, insofar as the normal course of the program is actually stopped. The objectives of the Council are thus to make sure that the strong moments of the advertisements (often more since they consist in transmitting a tempting message in little time) are perceived, in the long term, with an intensity similar to that of the strong moments of the stopped programs, and that the various components of a program timetable follow one another thus in a more harmonious way, while allowing the chains to preserve an identity, a clean sound color, and by saving the need as far as possible, for the televiewer, to seize itself in urgency of the remote control at the time of the commercial breaks.

It is advisable however to recall that the only fact of cutting a program by an advertisement can create this feeling of embarrassment, independently of its sound intensity, and that if it were about one particularly calm period of the program, the differences in sound intensity can remain notable.

Actors concerned

The implementation of the recommendations and the progressive harmonization of the practices cannot be the fact of the only editors, tributary of the producers of contents.

By 2010, the actors of audio-visual solved “to standardize” themselves the produced contents. Group P/LOUD of the European Union of radio-television, gathering close to
300 members, integrated in recommendation EBU – R128 of August 2010 and the technical bulletins associated the definition with the algorithm of measurement and the target value of -23 LUFS.

In March 2011, the International union of telecommunications updated its recommendation ITU-R-BS.1770: recommendation ITU-R BS.1770-2 resulting from this update is compatible with recommendation EBU – R128.

In France, the FICAM (Federation of industries of the cinema, the audio-visual one and multimedia), the CST (technical higher Commission of the image and sound), the inter-profession of the TV commercial and the HD Forum undertook the revision of recommendation CST-RT-019 on the sound volume of the televised programs, to adapt it to the advertisements and to put it in coherence with recommendation EBU – R128 of the EBU. This new version of the recommendation is henceforth referred under name CST - RT 017 - TV - V3.0 - 2011 “technical Recommendation PAD Editors”.

Texts in force

The recommendations of the CSA and those of the professional organizations lie within a legislative and regulatory scope which imposes the control of the sound volume without however determining precise technical constraints.

  • Article 14 of the decree n° 92-280 of the modified March 27th, 1992: “The noise level of the advertising sequences as of the screens which precede them and which follow them should not exceed, being in particular the treatment of sound dynamics, the noise level average moreover program ”,
  • Article 27 of the law of September 30th, 1986 modified by the law n° 2009-879 of the bearing July 21st, 2009 reforms hospital and relating to the patients, health and the territories: A decree in Council of State fixes the general principles defining the obligations relating to “ the maintenance in a constant noise level of the advertising sequences as of the screens which precede them and which follow them ”,
  • Article 177 of the law n° 2010-788 of the bearing July 12th, 2010 national engagement for the environment “ the TV channels respect an equal sound volume, which it is the televised programs or the pages of advertising screens. Each year, the Superior council of audio-visual submits to the Parliament a report on the respect by the TV channels of this obligation “.

To date, there do not exist provisions relating on the distribution of the television services or to the equipment allowing the restitution of these services. Insofar as the difference between two TV channels is meant within offer and that the receivers can carry out a treatment of the sound of the received chains, it appears useful for the Council that these two activities (distribution and supply of equipment of reception) are also the objects of rules contributing to improve the situation of the televiewers.

Annual reports

As lays down it article 177 of the law n°2010-788 of bearing July 12th, 2010 national engagement for the environment “ Each year, the Superior council of audio-visual submits to the Parliament a report on the respect by the TV channels of this obligation [of equal sound volume between televised programs and pages of advertising screens] ”.

The Council thus submitted in 2012 a first report, bearing over the year 2011, at the Parliament. It relates mainly to work preliminary to the establishment of the method stopped by the Council with the sectoral actors and does not mention those, results of measurement having to be produced in 2012 and 2013 following observation campaigns which require a long work of recording, cutting and analysis of audio-visual flows. This report points out in particular the history of previous work, going up until the first study carried out by the Council in December 1992. It presents also the situation in some countries, as well as European and international work.

Lastly, he recalls that the legal framework established in 2010 only allows to treat the television services, and only those which are controlled by the Council. Thus escape the obligation to apply the deliberation the services Community or extra-community concerned with other member countries and accessible to certain networks from distributors (cable, satellite, ADSL, etc), but also the audio-visual services of media to the request (television of correction, video on demand, etc), or other types of the audio-visual services.

Insofar as the transitions between various networks, offers or memory supports are increasingly simple to realize, creating a form of navigation without seam in the audio-visual offer, the improvements related to the televisual sphere can thus remain an isolated act, and even become counter-productive for the editors concerned with the French right, potentially perceived much less strong even inaudible at the time of an overflight of several chains.

Lastly, this report is also the occasion to point out the responsibility partial of the manufacturers for receivers in the sound restitution near the televiewer. That can to concern in particular treatments of sound and of environment proposed with restitution (mode “cinema, clear voice, etc”) whose impact on the sound intensity perceived by the televiewer is not controllable by the editors, or even differences in implementations of certain solutions of audio decoding, for example between the sound of the chains in high definition on the DVB and that of the chains in standard definition. These differences can cause particularly important differences in “volume” when the televiewer leaves a chain for another.

The Council submitted in 2014 its second report to the Parliament, bearing on its work of the period 2012-2013. To prepare it, it had published on August 2nd, 2012 a methodology of measurement of the sound intensity of the television services, programs and advertisements. This one was established in dialogue with all the members of the sector having wished to contribute to it, within the technical Commission of the experts of digital, before being retained by the Council.

The Council thus implemented this methodology to take mesures which relate to the analysis of a few hours of many chains, of which in particular all national chains diffused on the DVB. Before measurements themselves, audio-visual flows to analyze are the object of the first work known as of indexing which makes it possible to identify various sequences manually (program, advertisement, sponsorship, etc) constituting the television service. 

The third report at the Parliament was the occasion to present the works undertaken by the Council over the year 2014, consisting in particular into cubes new control measures, with a particular vigilance on the chains for which a sound intensity far away from the value targets had been identified at the time as of measurements of 2012 and 2013, but also on certain chains being the object of complaints of televiewers.    

Series of measurement 

In order to check the good application of the deliberation by the TV channels, a first series of measurement of the sound intensity was organized between the month of September 2012 and the month of March 2013 on a hundred chains diffused on various networks (DVB, cable, satellite, ADSL). It related to the measurement of the intensity of the advertisements, self-promotions, the advertising jingles, sponsorships and the programs, and also to the measure over 24 hours of television services. The results of this series of measurement, made it possible to note that the chains of the DVB tried real hard to apply the deliberation, and that the inhomogeneousness which persist are present primarily at certain music channels and certain foreign chains diffused on third networks (such as ADSL, the cable or the satellite).

The Council conducted a second series of measurements over the year 2014. A special attention was related to the television services which, during measurements of 2012 and 2013, had got results far away from the recommendations of the deliberation. The conclusions of this new campaign of measurements are as a whole encouraging, since several of these chains, in particular those present on the DVB, carried out the required efforts to apply the recommendations of the Council of 2011, thus contributing to improve comfort of listening of the televiewers. Contrary, the Council notes also the absence of actions of other chains (certain music channels or foreign available on the networks of the distributors). The Council got in touch with the editors of television services which seemed to have difficulties in the management of the sound intensity of their programs, in order to encourage them to take the means necessary to the application of the deliberation.

New working tracks and of reflection

At the time of preliminary work for the establishment of the deliberation, then in the implementation of the series of measurement, the Council noted various difficulties which could reduce the efforts carried out by the editors, the advertisers and their people receiving benefits. The situation of the distributors (ADSL, satellite, cable) which can, sometimes without the knowledge, to intervene on the sound intensity of the television services, but also that of manufacturers (television sets, receivers, amplifiers, etc), can modify the quality of the sound restitution near the televiewer. If these interventions would not have, generally, not to bring to a forward setting of the advertising sequences, they can on the other hand lead to situations or two different chains will on average be restored with very different intensities, at the point of again having to seize itself in urgency of the remote control, that it are a question of protecting its own ears, the neighbor, the children which sleep, or its loudspeakers.

Moreover, the other supports proposing of the audio contents (DVD, Blu-Ray, radio, video services with the request, etc) can still be the object of practices of “inflation” of the sound, or aim at noise levels of restitution very different, maintaining a form of discomfort for the listener. On Internet, for certain audio-visual contents proposed in Over The Top (OTT), the diffusion of advertisements before or during the visualization of the program, can sometimes disturb in an important way comfort of listening of the user: indeed, it still often arrives that the sound intensity of the advertisements is harmonized, neither between an advertisement and another, nor between an advertisement and the program which follows.     

These various situations make, and will make again, the object of remarks and suggestions on behalf of the Council to the legislator like with the Government, the more so as more the European Union of radio-television wishes to make evolve its recommendations so that a better management of the sound intensity takes place for the audio-visual services offered on Internet.

Better information of the chains not raising of the French regulation, or the European regulators to which they are attached, could also contribute to improve comfort of the televiewer. Indeed, certain foreign chains are unaware of the limits fixed at the French chains, which can return painful navigation within sets of themes offers, in particular musical, and led so that controlled chains are not very audible in comparison whereas on the contrary they privilege a certain quality of sound.

As for the TV channels, quality can still be improved in order to avoid for example the dialogues not very audible covers by a basic music too present, as well in certain films as of the programs of varieties. Lastly, whereas new forms of audio coding appear, in particular the codings called “by sound objects”, the Council will remain vigilant so that a homogeneous offer of television in terms of sound intensity, continues to be available for the televiewer.