French authorities have chosen the EBU's loudness recommendation to add weight to national laws governing the loudness of television broadcasts, which protect viewers from unpleasant and unpopular lurches in the volume of programmes and adverts.
Known as 'EBU R128', the recommendation has already been adopted by more than 40 broadcast equipment manufacturers, and by a number national broadcasters, including Dutch public and private national broadcasters, which started normalising adverts to EBU R128 early last month.
But France has now become the first country to link the EBU R128 standard to its audiovisual legislation, meaning previously unenforceable laws on loudness are now better defined and can be enforced.
The move means the production and distribution equipment used in France will have to respect EBU R128, broadcasters must manage audio correctly and material provided by production houses will have to comply. The introduction is planned in three phases: normalization of short programmes from 1 January 2012, of live programmes by June 2012, and of all programmes by the end of 2012.
Florian Camerer, the ORF senior sound engineer who chairs the PLOUD working group that drafted the recommendation, said the uptake of R128 since its launch at the IBC tradeshow in September 2010 had been startlingly rapid.
"Just one year on and more than 30 vendors at the IBC show this year were showing support for R128," he said. "This demonstrates both the need for a sensible approach to loudness and the practical applicability of the EBU recommendation."
Matthieu Parmentier, research and development project manager for France Télévisions, said he was pleased the French government was setting an example to other EU states in taking the loudness issue seriously. He added, "France Télévisions is working with the CSA and EHDF to make sure CE equipment implements the needed functionality in new receivers".
More will be presented on the deployment of the EBU Loudness programme in France and other countries in the free, upcoming EBU Loudness Workshop on 8-9 December. This event will in particular focus on distribution aspects of loudness normalisation.
Click here for video interviews with Florian Camerer (ORF) and Matthieu Parmentier (France Télévisions