Television viewers will one day be able to personalize their listening as well as their viewing experiences, thanks to the unanimous decision of International Telecommunication Union (ITU) members on Monday to adopt global standards for advanced broadcast audio technology.

In the words of an ITU press release, the new standards outlined in Recommendation ITU-R BS.2088-0 aim to deliver “advanced sound for broadcasting services that will create a listening experience that is closer to real life.” Describing sound as “an indispensible part of television,” the ITU predicted that the new standards will lead to the development of “immersive audio,” which, when combined with ultra-high definition television services of the future, is expected to “lift the television experience to an entirely new level, further blurring the line between physical reality and virtual or digital simulation.” Founded on the existing and widely used RIF/WAV file format, the new standards are designed to facilitate production and exchange of advanced audio files by allowing a single file to carry a complete program containing audio samples and metadata for “any combination of object, channel and scene based-audio.” By incorporating “object based coding,” the standards will thus allow viewers to “personalize their TV viewing and listening experience at the point of consumption” by setting language and dialogue levels, adjusting the level of immersive sound, and creating and selecting their own menu of services.

Heralding the adoption of Recommendation ITU-R BS.2088-0 as “an important step for an exciting new age of ‘sound’ for broadcasting,” ITU Secretary-General Houlin Zhao told reporters that the advanced audio systems made possible by Monday’s vote “will provide . . . features and performance well beyond those available today.” Along a similar vein, ITU Radiocommunication Bureau director Francois Rancy agreed that the work of the ITU “is creating a very exciting future for audio production, delivery and programming” as he observed: “the role that sound plays in the media is underestimated.”