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”.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Voices
A man shoots at targets depicting a portrait of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a shooting range in the center of the western Ukrainian city of Lviv
voicesIt's cowardice to pretend this is anything other than an invasion
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Arts and Entertainment
booksNovelist takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Apple agrees deal with Visa on contactless payments

Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
News
i100
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

Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

£20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

Trend Writer / Copywriter

£25 - 30k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Trend Writer / Copywriter: Retail, Design and...

Business Development Manager / Media Sales Exec

£28 - 32k + Uncapped Commission: Guru Careers: A Business Development Manager ...

Digital Marketing Assistant

£17 - 27k: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Digital Marketing Assistant to join ...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor