Fix to pubradio’s loudness problem rolls out to stations

Sssshhh . . . the sound of public radio is about to get a little quieter. But if all goes according to a plan unveiled last month by the Public Radio Satellite Service, listeners won’t notice the change in audio levels for programs distributed to stations around the country.

Public Radio Satellite System adopts new standard for audio levels

The Public Radio Satellite System adopted standards Thursday intended to normalize audio levels among the programs it distributes to stations. PRSS adopted an audio measurement standard using a number to denote audio levels, instead of the longtime industry standard of peak meters. Decibel measurements provided by meters are largely subjective. The loudness unit adopted by PRSS is used by organizations around the world. Because PBS also uses it, joint licensees can now rely on a single standard, which will simplify operations, according to the PRSS working group that approved the change.

Working group nears standard for audio levels in PRSS content

Members of an NPR working group aiming to standardize levels of audio content delivered via the Public Radio Satellite System believe they have found one possible solution to the problem. Programs sent to stations through the PRSS vary widely in volume and may detract from the listener’s experience, according to Chris Nelson, NPR’s director of digital strategy. In May, Nelson shared with the NPR Board results of a study in which about 53 percent of the content examined by the working group deviated from standards PRSS recommends for consistent volumes. The group aims to give stations and producers affordable best practices and resources to help solve the problem. At a meeting Thursday of NPR’s board, Nelson told board members that the working group has consulted with producers and engineers about the issue and conducted a survey to learn how the problem affects stations that use and contribute PRSS content.

Engineers seek solution to varied volume of satellite-fed programs

A recent NPR study confirmed that what many have surmised for years is true: Public radio shows sent through the Public Radio Satellite System vary widely in loudness. An NPR working group that has been studying the issue found that roughly 53 percent of the content they examined deviated from standards PRSS recommends to keep volumes consistent. The group is looking at creating new best practices and implementing a software fix that could cheaply curb the problem. “It’s a big issue in the system,” said Paxton Durham, chief engineer at Virginia’s WVTF-FM and Radio IQ. “I’ve been here 24 years, and as long as I can remember there’s always been a problem.”

Research cited by NPR found that anything more than a 4-decibel change in volume can prompt listeners to adjust volume levels.

Full speed ahead for Public Media Platform

After two-plus years of planning and prototyping a shared hub providing easy access to digital content from across public media, partners in the Public Media Platform will begin building the new technical system next month.

Content Depot: Getting audio gets flexible

This summer public radio will get a taste of an impending change in the technological status quo: the Content Depot. This far-reaching set of upgrades and innovations in the field’s means for moving audio around the country will streamline how producers and stations select, send, acquire and automate programming. In particular, the Content Depot standardizes how the NPR-operated Public Radio Satellite System (PRSS) stores programming and feeds it to stations. Today the process relies on a hodgepodge of media on both ends of the transfer. PRSS stores programming in forms including analog tape and compact disc, while stations download it from a PRSS satellite and save it on hard drives and other media before broadcasting it.