Leading article: Tune in. Turn it up?

Related Topics

Is television drama getting more difficult to understand? Or are we all getting older? Our report today on the concerns of the respected Voice of the Listener & Viewer (VLV) pressure group suggests it might be the box, rather than our deteriorating hearing, which is at fault.

The VLV has complained to the controller of BBC1 Jay Hunt that the extensive use of ambient noise and background music in many modern television dramas is leaving an increasing number of us unable to follow what is going on.

Some might be tempted to dismiss such complaints as springing from the same reactionary mentality that powered Mary Whitehouse's "clean up TV" campaign in the 1960s. It is certainly true that sound design in television drama has evolved considerably in recent decades. The manner in which innovative programmes such as The Wire and The Office use background sound is integral to the artistic vision of their creators. Who would want to see such programmes subject to stifling bureaucratic restrictions on sound?

Yet it would be wrong to dismiss any complaints about comprehensibility levels as narrow-minded conservatism and a desire to turn back the clock to the days when BBC technicians wore white lab coats. The fact that some programmes have used background noise and music to powerful dramatic effect does not mean that all film makers are equally adept at it. The generous use of ambient noise, whatever its artistic merits, also surely defeats its very purpose if the majority of the audience cannot follow the drama.

These complaints about the noisiness of television drama also feed into broader concerns over the sound levels in other entertainment media. It has been well-chronicled how cinema multiplexes have cranked up the decibels to ear-splitting levels in recent years. And many a hand reaches for the remote control when an advert break comes on in anticipation of the noise level shooting up unbidden.

Like Iain Duncan Smith, entertainment forms seem to have been turning up the volume of late (with equally unappealing results to those of the former Tory leader). So Ms Hunt is right to participate in a study into the extent of the problem in as far as it touches television drama. It would help to have some hard evidence of just how widespread audience disaffection is over this matter.

It would surely not do commercial broadcasters any harm to get involved in this consultation either. After all, the primary purpose of all programme makers is to please viewers. If comprehensibility is indeed a growing problem it would be in the interests of them all to fix it.

Like the dialogue in television dramas, the concerns of audiences surely ought to be more than just so much background noise.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page


General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
'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
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk