BBC apologises after hundreds of viewers complain they couldn't hear dialogue in 'Jamaica Inn'

 

Media Editor

Frustrated viewers might be excused for wondering if BBC executives are themselves hard of hearing after BBC1’s Jamaica Inn became the latest victim in the long-running saga of audiences not being able to hear the words in expensively-produced drama productions.

The BBC issued an apology after receiving more than 100 complaints when “issues with the sound levels” undermined the much-anticipated opening instalment of the adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s Gothic novel.

Some viewers who were struggling to follow the dialogue may have been relieved to have seen on Twitter that numerous high-profile television figures were experiencing similar difficulties. Arlene Phillips, choreographer and former judge on BBC1’s Strictly Come Dancing, asked if others were experiencing similar difficulties. “Did anyone else have trouble hearing BBC One Jamaica Inn

The TV comedian Al Murray quipped: “Find out what happens next in Jamaica Inn by getting your ears syringed!”

John Challis, who plays the character “Boycie” in BBC1’s sitcom Only Fools and Horses and ought to be familiar with the intricacies of broadcast drama, also voiced his frustration: “Jamaica Inn LOOKS very good but I haven't heard a single word...Either the actors are mumbling or the sound track is faulty.”

Emma Frost, who wrote the screenplay for the drama, came forward to try and explain the problem, suggesting that a technical fault rather than a failing by the cast was to blame. “No surprises here – I’m told there was a major sound problem for tonight's broadcast of Jamaica Inn - not surprised you couldn’t hear it,” she wrote.

The BBC apologised and said great efforts were being made to ensure the problems did not spoil the rest of the series. A spokesperson said: “There were issues with the sound levels last night and for technical reasons they could not be altered during transmission. We are adjusting the dialogue levels in episode two and three to address audience concerns so they can enjoy the rest of the drama and would like to apologise to those viewers who were affected.”

The BBC pointed out that a large audience of 6.1 million had watched the first episode of Jamaica Inn, which features Jessica Brown Findlay, one of the stars of the hit ITV drama Downton Abbey.

The controversy over Jamaica Inn is particularly embarrassing for the BBC because it comes a year after the Director General Lord Hall identified the issue as one that the broadcaster needed to address.

Complaints were made over the indistinct dialogue of lavish drama productions including Tom Stoppard’s otherwise acclaimed BBC2 adaptation of Ford Madox Ford’s Parade’s End – starring Benedict Cumberbatch - in 2012 and the BBC1 adaptation of Sebastian Faulks’s Birdsong the same year.

Speaking last July, Lord Hall said: “I don't want to sound like a grumpy old man, but I also think muttering is something we could have a look at. Actors muttering can be testing - you find you have missed a line... you have to remember that you have an audience.”

He promised that the broadcaster was looking into the matter.

The problem of inaudible speech has been a bugbear of television drama audiences since at least 2009 when this newspaper reported that the then-controller of BBC1 Jay Hunt had agreed to work with an independent study into the issue after she was approached by the campaigning group, the Voice of the Listener and Viewer.

That followed complaints surrounding the popular Baltimore-based drama The Wire, which was initially shown in Britain by the BBC, and the retro dramas Mad Men and Ashes to Ashes.

Danny Cohen, another former BBC1 Controller and now the BBC’s Director of Television, has also expressed his determination to address the problem and said in 2011 that “comprehensive best practice guidance” had been issued to producers to “make clear well-crafted television sound”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

Guru Careers: Business Analyst / Digital Business Analyst

£50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Business Analyst / Digital Bus...

Guru Careers: Business Development Manager / Sales

£30 - 40k (£65k Y1 OTE Uncapped): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Business Deve...

Guru Careers: Graduate Media Assistant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an ambitious and adaptable...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power