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Is the background music too loud?

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Danny Cohen Danny Cohen | 00:00 UK time, Tuesday, 15 March 2011

One of the most common complaints to BBC television in recent years has been that some people find it hard to hear the dialogue in our shows.

They cite many reasons for this, the most common among them being background music being too loud.

As a result of these complaints in 2009, Jay Hunt (my predecessor as controller of BBC One) launched an extensive study into why people were experiencing these difficulties.

BBC Vision's Audibility project was a huge undertaking. It involved using our 20,000-strong panel of TV viewers across the age, geographical and social demographic and a good deal of technical experimentation.

This included an engineering analysis of programmes, remixing soundtracks on clips and much more.

We also worked with the Voice Of The Listener And Viewer, Channel 4 and the Royal National Institute For Deaf People to find out once and for all what it is that can make it hard for viewers to hear the dialogue in our programmes properly.

The results were surprising. It turns out that audibility is not just about background music, as many had thought.

In fact issues range from clarity of speech - namely mumbling, muttering and muffled voices - to unfamiliar accents. Background noise such as traffic was also an issue.

However what we discovered was that it was a combination of factors could really create problems - for example a mumbling actor, recorded in a noisy environment with added music.

What struck me is that many of the problems could be resolved long before a single frame is shot if more emphasis was placed on planning for clear sound.

For example, has the director chosen the right location and what are the implications for getting good sound? Has the person looking after sound had training and the right level of experience? Are the presenters briefed to recap if they feel key messages are not clear?

If a contributor may be difficult to understand, can they be in vision as much as possible so viewers can see their lips move?

In testing, when we remixed sound tracks on video clips; with the music taken down a notch the results were fascinating.

Reducing the music by just one point, four decibels, when the programme is finally mixed allowed many more people to understand what was being said without compromising the editorial vision.

This was particularly true for people who had any form of hearing loss.

One invaluable piece of information I've learned along the way is that age-related hearing loss can begin as early as in our 40s. Many of us are completely unaware that our hearing could be deteriorating and think the issue is with TV programmes.

But for me, this is something we need to be aware of - particularly those making programmes for mainstream channels like BBC One.

The result of this research is that we now have a 'best practice' guide for programme makers available on the BBC Academy's College of Production website.

This gives clear guidance on the small things that programme makers can do to make a big difference to the audience's ability to hear and therefore enjoy our programmes to the fullest possible extent.

My thanks to all our partners involved in this project. It has been a fascinating and very useful study.

Danny Cohen is controller of BBC One.

Further guidance has now been published on the BBC's Editorial Guidelines website.


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  • Comment number 1.

    At Long last someone has tackled the issue. This has long been a thorn in my side. The background music has been ratcheted up over the years. I notice every day on Radio 5 the lack of measured speaking....so much crosstalk goes on nowadays that we the listeners are simply left struggling to get a clear picture.

    Another major gripe is the way these film editors at the beeb simply think that faster is better. They put faster faster and faster image changing into the productions these days - its like these guys (and I guess they must be young, just out of TV school) are on drugs the way they treat film productions these days. Its become a series of flashing images, a kaleidoscope of images that go faster and faster. I cant follow it these days and just switch off when I see it. I just know that some inexperienced kid is behind the editing. Study some of the great film makers (maybe its the directors and not the editors) and see how they use long slow film takes...its a joy. Theres a lot wrong with editors in my view...they are screwing up the population and viewers at large.

  • Comment number 2.

    Background music should be almost on the subliminal level - that is, noticeable only if you make an effort to hear it. It should also only be used in transitions - so if the presenter/voiceover is speaking about a topic, ideally no music should be used, as full attention can then be paid to what they say; and then when it changes to a new piece the music would start.

  • Comment number 3.

    I agree with both comments. Brian Cox's otherwise fascinating programmes are ruined by crash bang music (music?) and quickfire images that attack the eyes and look like they've been filmed by cameramen with delerium tremens. And oh, that cliché of speeded up clouds racing across our screens - every science and nature programme can't live without them; time for that photographic trick to go for good (along with presenters talking to us while driving their cars). If this is the work of editors just out of TV school and all they can come up with, I suggest they go back and complete the course!

  • Comment number 4.

    I'm in my mid 30s and don't suffer from hearing loss. However I have noticed a trend for background music becoming louder and louder in recent times, and I must admit that at times it can be hard to hear the presenter's speech. Music adds greatly to the general atmosphere of a programme, but if it's so loud that it prevents a message from being clearly put across, then it's by definition too loud. Professor Brian Cox, presenter of "Wonders of the Universe" thinks the BBC is wrong to give to much weight to the minority of people who complain. It's worth remembering that the VAST majority of people who experience difficulty in hearing something that is said because of background music, do not complain. Instead they suffer in silence or they ask someone else what was said.

    The frustrating thing is that there need not be compromise made on the part of the programme makers. Nearly all televisions these days receive stereo sound, and it would not be difficult to put music on one channel and speech and general sounds on the other - thereby enabling viewers to control their own background music mix with the balance control. With digital technology in place nearly everywhere these days, it would even be possible to preserve the stereo music and control speech volume independently. DVD players have been able to do this for many years.

    While we're at it - I'd like to see digital technology used to remove the need for a sign-language translator to obliterate the screen for those of us without a hearing impairment. Surely the signer could be switched on and off just as easily as subtitles, and the position of the overlay adjusted for those of us with widescreen televisions. Then signed programmes could be broadcast all day while keeping everyone happy.

  • Comment number 5.

    Well for me I would just like directors/editors/producers (whoever decides the shots on Six Nations Rugby games) to understand the game rather than cinematography. Too often this year we have been looking at players boots whilst lineouts are taken and looking at a wideangle shot of the whole stadium whilst a scrum is going on. AAArghhhhh!

  • Comment number 6.

    i am amazed that a simple problem like the sound has baffled bbc staff for so long.
    it was obvious to me and others that this problem has been created by the the programme producers--surely they must listen to what they produce.
    They are always trying to be too clever rather than keeping things simple and using 'common sense' . they think that good ratings are representative of presentation, and usually it has nothing to do with it.
    A really good example of this is 'strictly come dancing' --watched by millions but is lacking in essential quality and commonsense-so that it would give viewers much more satisfaction than it does. i bet the producers think that people watch it because of the dancing -how wrong they are --people actually watch it because they would like to see dancing (the actual dancing is only a small fraction of the programme) but they are more intrigued by the way people interact socially.
    camera activity is very important in how people perceive and value what they see-
    the number of different shots in programmes these days is not a normal functioning of a person's mind and attention and is in fact irritable to the senses--so much more pleasure is being lost for the sake of producers -so-called modern attitude--it lacks common sense--but because most programmes are the same way then comparing this is not possible unless you look at the old programmes and films.
    --moving on is not best in all ideas --and sometimes society gets lost in its modern technology.--there are so many examples of this these days --that is why people dont know why things are going wrong with values and attitudes, and why bbc staff did not realise what was wrong--which defies belief for someone like me.

  • Comment number 7.

    @ Danny Cohen

    Now you have sorted out the sound can you please sort out the picture on BBC1 HD. The rugby coverage on Sunday looked like it was in SD and some pictures in other shows is little better.

    The BBC choice to use the lower resolution of HD means it is the only major broadcaster to choose to do this except for Cable viewers where the provider has taken the decision to override the BBC decision it makes for satellite and use the BBC feed it gets to provide at the proper resolution other HD broadcasters use.

    Why should satellite viewers have to suffer because of technology issues on DTT while cable viewers are treated with the higher resolution picture?

    If BBC One is meant to be the national channel surely it should conform to the best standards of HD broadcasting being the same resolution as every other channel with the proper capacity given to it on satellite.
    When technology allows you can then do the same treatment to DTT viewers.

  • Comment number 8.

    SushiFiend is right about Brian Cox. I want to see and hear him explain astro-physics, but not as if I'm watching a rock concert - but, of course, he was a member of a rock band, so he will defend the use of loud music and his young ears won't find it intrusive. Surely, it is possible to SEPARATE music and speech: the presenter presents his or her words "a capella" and the scenic, non-commentary interludes are accompanied - if they must be - by the music. Seemples!

  • Comment number 9.

    I am in complete agreement with so many of the aforementioned comments. I was also suprised to read by one contributor
    that Brian Cox feels that "minority" views should be ignored. I have held him in some regard for the way he delivers
    his excellent programmes on science and the universe and find his comments are at odds with this. His universe
    programmes are among the most seriously affected by loud and unnecessary music. For goodness sakes Brian do you want us
    to hear what you are saying or are your pop group days still resonating with you?
    The BBC also especially love to bang drums whenever they find the chance - usually in documentaries and of course
    during the introduction to any news item. One has to wait through endless crashes and of course clever graphics before
    getting to the item itself. How about "Hard Talk" for just about the worst example of this? Oh how glad I am for the
    mute button on my remote!!
    Please BBC understand that the cleverness of your back room boys both the graphic chaps and the music"lovers" do not a
    pleasant programme make for most of us I am sure. I love your documentaries so please let us hear the subject matter,
    after all that's what it is all about - isn't it?

  • Comment number 10.

    I've got excellent hearing and I find it utterly tedious that I have to put up with BBC programmes with terrible sound because there are some viewers that have poor hearing.

    There is an "audio description" facility for these viewers on all digital TV platforms. Please provide a musicless mix on the AD channel for viewers with poor hearing and let the rest of us in "the rave generation" that have been brought up on 5.1 cinematic sound to actually enjoy full-immersion stimulating sound with our pictures.

    The same goes for Radio 4 - create a "voice only" mix of the station for LW and a low bitrate (32k) DAB channel ("R4 for hard of hearing") so the producers there can also provide better brain stimulation by mixing music and voice.

    Whilst there might be 9m (15%) of the UK population with hearing loss, why do the other 85% of us have to a diminished experience where there is a simple technical solution already out there "in the field" for those with an audio disability?

  • Comment number 11.

    The report's conclusion make sense. But I wonder how much it cost? It sounds like an expensive way of stating the obvious. On the other hand maybe some producers need to be persuaded, and having some evidence of this kind is the only way to do it.

    Incidentally lack of clarity is a problem with many World Service programmes on radio and BBC World on television. In the days of shortwave transmissions there seemed to be greater awareness of the issue, no doubt because producers were conscious of fading and background interference. Music and ambient noise are not the only problem. Now the internet and cable are taking over, ironically listeners for whom English is not the first language often struggle - political correctness rules, regional accents are favoured over RP, and basic audibility has suffered. Some presenters are better than others.

  • Comment number 12.

    I wish Blue Peter would stop having music playing behind every studio segment. It's just not necessary and my 10 yr old daughter is annoyed by it as it makes it harder to hear the presenters and guests.

  • Comment number 13.

    I'm surprised that the most obvious cause of this is not mentioned. In recording studios they used to play a newly recorded track into a "grot box" speaker system to simulate how most listeners (listening on portable radios or rubbish quality radios at home) would first hear the product. They would then adjust the mix and equalisation accordingly - since they knew it had to sound good on the radio to get sales.

    Now, average modern flat screen TVs have sound quality that is rather better than many (but not all) of their predecessors, but they are a long way behind studio quality. I think that the sound engineers for TV and movie productions often forget that. The result can be content that sounds award-winningly good in the sound suite, but sounds muddy or confused on an average telly (especially one owned by someone lacking the skills or nous to play around with the sound settings). Brian Cox's programme was exactly such a case, as was the recent Robert Downey "Sherlock Holmes" movie.

    Perhaps it's time to reinstate the "grot box" in the sound studios?

    Alan T

  • Comment number 14.

    At last. i thought i was the only person that loved his mute button on the remote control... b.b.c jingles... music thats not suited to the subject & far too loud
    we dont need it, & do not want it.. drowning out the commentary,,
    in my view 99% of films, are ruined by the sound track. far too loud,, too much of it,, @ the wrong type of music.. at one time i was supposed to enjoy a film of a chap climbing a difficult mountain,, to the acc of a jazz clarinetist.. absolutely crazy,,, john radford

  • Comment number 15.

    I have just had the pleasure of re-watching Brian Cox's fantastic "wonders of the universe". I enjoyed it music, the "sped up clouds", and indeed the science. I enjoyed it as a whole. Ladies and gentlemen, this is an informative entertaining programme - not a lecture. I like the format and had no problem hearing or following it. For the very few who do have problems hearing - please feel free to make use of the BBCs excellent subtitling service and stop ruining the experience for the rest of us who have no problems following things at all. I do wish the BBC would stop pandering to the vocal minorities in this country. Oh and whilst we are on that subject - Leave Radio 4 alone and stop meddling!

  • Comment number 16.

    It's not just audibility. Noise masquerading as music is distracting, unnecessary, irrelevant and generally inappropriate. Many of us dislike this background (all too often foreground) noise: so who is so enthusiastic about it that it has to be imposed on the rest of us? When it is played it should point up the action, not distract from it, and be appropriate to the place and period, whether composed for the purpose or the genuine/ original article. Grrrrr.

  • Comment number 17.

    ... I find Brian Cox unwatchable. His style of presentation is informal to the point of rudeness and his programmes are filled not just with loud and ugly noises but with flashy and distracting visual effects and simulations masquerading as real images. I am so very old that I like being treated as an adult: thank you David Attenborough, Michael Palin, Aubrey Manning, Ian Hislop and others - it can be done!

  • Comment number 18.

    OK that's step one - now can someone please deal with the difference in perceived sound level between one programme item and another?
    I know it's not a BBC issue, but the difference in sound level between adverts and programmes is especially a problem. We are forever turning the sound down when the adverts come on - not so we can't hear - simply because it is unbearably loud! - and then miss the first sentence when the programme returns in the scramble to find the remote and turn the sound up again.

    The current approach is clearly broken - please can it be fixed?

  • Comment number 19.

    RE: #18 by Tim Brooks.

    Yes, Agreed, the average level of sound on commercials is far higher, and intentionally so. In ad sound, all the small sounds are heightened to maximally fill the sound channel.

    This is one, among many, reasons why we pre-record just about everything we want to watch now - even on BBC. It's then easy to miss out the ever-longer and ever-noisier dross breaks between (BBC) and inside (ITV, SKY channels) programmes.

    Nobody should be sitting fuming through all this rubbish nowadays. I would strongly advise anyone who doesn't already have one to get a hard disc recorder (available from Sky and also from high street shops for Freeview or Freesat) to transform your viewing experience. Fairly cheap now, and very easy to set-up and use.

    'But Marge, we have to watch the ads, if we don't, it's like we're stealing TV!' - Homer J Simpson . 2004.

  • Comment number 20.

    I can only imagine that the majority of people complaining about background music levels either have receiving equipment of a very indifferent quality or are suffering from hearing problems.

    Having made a quite modest investment in a sound processor to maximise the quality of received audio, no problems have been experienced here, and my 64 year old ears are enjoying programme content such as 'The Killing' and 'Wonders Of The Universe' which feature high quality background music audio.

  • Comment number 21.

    Sound level options surely could be incorporated into a 'red button' feature?

  • Comment number 22.

    So, after testing 20,000 listeners and good deal of technical experimentation, you discovered that "a mumbling actor, recorded in a noisy environment with added music" is hard to hear.

    Your next research, presumably, will involve studying bear faeces in a woodland environment.

  • Comment number 23.

    The advent of coding audio for surround sound has also caused problems. I have found, particularly with some American content, that speech which is almost inaudible against music when listened to via a normal stereo set can suddenly become much clearer when put through a surround system. No doubt some of this will be due to enhanced separation, but I think an additional factor is that those producing content are balancing the audio whilst listening on more sophisticated systems than many consumers have access to.

  • Comment number 24.

    I should like to remove the unnecessary babbling of many sports commentators. TV is not radio, I can actually see what is happening and I can read the speed, times etc, shown on the screen. Skiing is one of the worst; the swishing of the skis, the crowd yelling and the cow bells are all drowned out by the commentator stating that a competitor was a bit off course and not up to his usual standard. He then goes on to win!

  • Comment number 25.

    Thank goodness! At last someone is pointing out the "king's new clothes" issue of speech being masked by music and/or background noise. The latter can be intrinsic (e.g. traffic noise during an interview) or deliberately introduced (e.g. telephones ringing and general clatter to enhance the authentic atmosphere in "Casualty.") I'm 62 and still hear reasonably well, I think, but obviously not as well as when I was 32. So yes please, a little more consideration for us older folk. I don't think it would spoil things at all for younger people, as in any case we subconsciously filter out the extraneous noise.

    I agree with the advert sound level issue too - did I read somewhere 15% louder than the programmes? Advertisers are tearing their hair out that we skip them one way or another - do they realise the irritating noise level is one reason?

    A final gripe. Why oh why when a scene changes does the sound from the new scene precede the video by a second or so? I guess it's something to do with continuity, but I personally find it annoying and distracting.

  • Comment number 26.

    If speech is muffled, to the extent that a lot of people are using subtitles to figure out what's going on... then it's crazy to think that it's OK. I'm so glad the BBC has looked into the issue and identified the problems. If I watch an old film, I can hear what's going on because the actors probably came from a Theatre background, and HAD to learn to speak clearly. I love dialogue... but some of the latest films, where actors mumble and whisper to be more true to life means I'd rather wait until I can get a copy and watch it at home rather than in the Cinema, as I sometimes can't follow the story.

    Horizon is one of the programs I used to love to watch as a kid, because I was interested in what the people had to say, a few years ago I stopped watching because it was so difficult to follow - the narrators mumbled and the background music was too loud - exactly what the report found.

  • Comment number 27.

    trekker308 @#20

    Not all of us. I watch using an Arcam AV amplifier linked to a 5.1 (Quad) speaker set up.
    Both my wife and I (40s and 30s) had problems understanding what was being said in episode 1 and did find the music intrusive (i.e. not background) when Brian Cox was talking. We didn't have a problem with episode 2 and commented on the fact. I hadn't realised the change was down to the complaints made, so congrats to the beeb for listening.

    I do agree with other posters though, that it should be possible to allow home listeners to mix their own combination of voice with music and effects.

  • Comment number 28.

    About time the Beeb worked this one out. Not exactly rocket science that over loud background music and other extraneous noises will make dialogue more difficult to hear is it? I am afraid that what has been happening is typical of the "Tristrams" imposing their production values without the application of any common sense.

    In response to Trekker308's comment, I am listening to the sound through very high quality equipment fed by a 24/192 digital to analogue converter from the satellite signal. I can add in variable high and low pass filtration and room acoustic correction but as someone who suffers hearing loss in the 2000 to 4500 Hz range, overloud background music just cannot be filtered out without losing too much of the spoken word sound.

  • Comment number 29.

    "BBC Vision's Audibility project was a huge undertaking. It involved using our 20,000-strong panel of TV viewers across the age, geographical and social demographic and a good deal of technical experimentation."

    All this just to ascertain what was obvious...

  • Comment number 30.

    One other point the BBC sound engineers need to consider is this. The majority of modern slim line tv's both plasma and LCD have loudspeakers with little or no bass response to speak of. Not everyone wants a mass of speakers around the room, with all the associated tangle of wires in order to hear decent sound. All that happens is that the bass sounds are"muddy" and muffled through the tv's speakers alone. So turn down the bass emphasis by 3db at least. Then persuade manufacturers to improve the loudspeakers within the tv cabinets. Slim does not have to be tinny. Sound levelling is only built into a handful of tv's so come on Aunty beeb! Sort out the sound levells!

  • Comment number 31.

    Those of you who recommend that people with hearing difficulties should just switch off the sound, use subtitles and stop spoiling it for "the rest of us" should remember that the deaf do not watch TV in isolation and often have to accomodate the needs of other viewers around them and compromise accordingly.

    It should also be remembered that subtitles disrupt the television picture - for hearing and non-hearing viewers - just as unnecessary, poorly mixed soundtracks disrupt the sound. The quality of subtitling is also extremely variable.

    Subtitles are not the solution to this problem.

  • Comment number 32.

    I find it annoying and think it is lazy programme making, being used as a filler where they can't think of what to say. It must also be expensive when you have to pay for the rights to broadcast it - especially when they use snippets of music throughout a programme.

  • Comment number 33.

    Just getting rid of Sandy Toxic would help.

  • Comment number 34.


    we need a ***CHOICE***: those who want to listen to annoying musak may listen to it, others may turn it off. BBC always banging on about how valuable "interaction" is. OK prove it.


  • Comment number 35.

    It was 'fascinating' that music -4dB made it easier for people to hear the dialogue: you needed to ask 20,000 people to find that out? As for 'editorial vision' - I used to be driven nuts as a BBC radio producer with demands from execs to add more and louder music to my documentaries: it felt more like policy or corporate orthodoxy, it certainly overrode my own editorial vision (and given that my first BBC job was as a freelance assistant musical director on BBC1, preceeded by years as a rock sound engineer, I have robust bona fides as a music fan).

  • Comment number 36.

    It's not just background music that means you can't hear speech - on TV you can often switch off the sound and turn on the subtitles to get rid of that problem. My problem is with presenters who talk too loudly and argue all the time, especially on the radio - it's painful, I can't hear what they are saying and I just turn the radio off completely as I can't be forever jumping up and down to alter the volume. The programme makers need to ensure a better balance between soft and loud voices.

  • Comment number 37.

    Brian Cox says it's wrong for the BBC to listen to the voice of a minority? It's not just the minority of people who made the effort to complain - I'm one of those who didn't complain about the intrusive music. I just stopped watching. I turned off a programme that I was looking forward to watching. The content was totally ruined by the unnecessarily loud music. If the music is more important than Brian Cox's words, then put the words into subtitles, and cut out Brian Cox altogether.

    There is something called 'balance' and even in a digital age, balance is still possible. As is the use of a fader - fade up the music when music is the important feature of a scene; fade down the music when the words of the presenter/expert/commentator/scientist are important. You're wrong, Brian Cox, or perhaps you have a hearing problem. Listen to the audience - otherwise the audience will not be able to listen to you.

  • Comment number 38.

    I am so pleased to hear the sound on the Wonders of the Universe has being redone. I was really looking forward to watching this series and couldn't because of the volume of music. We turned off (and have not turned back to it yet). I am 47 and my wife is 45 and our hearing is normal! I even tried on another telly to see if the set was at fault. On the same subject, on the breakfast news - when the presenters are previewing the news items and weather etc, why do we have to have this single note of 'music' continuing in the background like someone is holding their breath. so annoying and unnecessary. They used to do it on Radio5 Live but have stopped. has the music editor moved programmes? Thanks

  • Comment number 39.

    The background noise on some programmes is totally disruptive. I have lost some upper range hearing through noise damage so ambient background noise makes it difficult to hear speech on programmes. Other factors which effect the enjoyment of factual programmes are cameras spinning round presenters, very fast sequences with no purpose, shots of Betteny Hughes standing on a rock staring into the distance, hand and arm waving, and worst of all, presenters who smile all the time.( Never trust a continual smiler!) The host of other wizzy gimmicks which display a lack of content or the fact that the director is bored. If the subject matter is good enough then play it straight otherwise don't waste money on it. Coast is a good example of the best. Neil Oliver has good presentational style but even he is given the whirling camera treatment from time to time. If it is superfluous or confusing leave it OUT.

  • Comment number 40.

    I Would be interested to know,what the break down of programmes was for this survey ? And were all the shows surveyed British shows ? As i feel it is with American shows,that the Background Music,is a major problem,as it is with Many American Films.
    For example the American Show Prison Break,Which my wife enjoys watching,has unbelievable levels of background music,And while i would agree,that Music in the right place and at the right Tempo etc.,can enhance a T.V Show / Film. It is also true that the margin is a very thin one. And surely all background music does not have to be provided by a full scale orchestra ? Which again seems to be the case in many American T.V Shows/Films.

  • Comment number 41.

    So the answer is yes, brilliant, that Panorama for instance use deafening music on serious stories is childish and demeans the viewer.

  • Comment number 42.

    I have a hearing problem - it is not hearing loss, as I can literally hear a pin drop, but it is more that my brain finds it difficult to separate "signal" from "noise". For example, if I am in the kitchen and the refrigerator switches on, I can lose the next few seconds of a conversation. I am sure that programme producers who allow or add a lot of background sound have no concept of people who have the same problem - hopefully this blog will enlighten them. Please, please keep the background decibels low!

  • Comment number 43.

    Leave the" wonders of the universe alone".
    It is those who are tone deaf along with those who are now too old to enjoy music that complain.

  • Comment number 44.

    At last the background noise problem is being recognised. We often stop watching interesting factual programmes after a few minutes because of loud, irritating music on the soundtrack. The latest case is Brian Cox's series, something we were looking forward to. What do producers think these distractions add to the content?

  • Comment number 45.

    There shoudl be place for documentaries who chose to have no music for thier audience and place for programmes which chose to use mosuic to effect to engage and attract others who may not have stayed watching a quiet verbal style. My daughter turned around during last nights Brian Cox and commented that she had just learned and understood more chemistry than she had in 4 years of high school. THIS aspect of the BBC responsibilities should not be forgotten in a drive to appease those who think only Lord Reith presentation styles should be provided.
    The comment on R4 this morning regarding the BBC recommendation for background sound levels seemed to have not been known about by the auther ? surprised -- not :(

  • Comment number 46.

    Only the BBC would undertake a complicated and probably very expensive process to state the obvious, which is that music is often too loud to make dialogue understandable. It's not just in recent years that people have been complaining about this, yet broadcasters have ignored the valid complaints viewers made. It just shows the arrogance and contempt that the BBC has for its audience that it's taken so long for them to do anything about it, and even then after a lengthy, complicated and, I'm sure, expensive survey

  • Comment number 47.

    Over the years, I have become more and more irritated by the intrusive and often destructive nature of 'background' music; for example, we are not allowed to hear the natural sounds of the subjects of these programmes. i.e. birdsong, the roar of ocean waves, as the producers, in their arrogance, feel they have to drown out with this unwelcome music. I really cheered on one occasion; it was an Alan Titchmarsh programme, when the viewer was given the option of turning off the background noise!! Why was this a one-off! I am not complaining, because of hearing difficulties, but because I find this totally unwelcome intrusion into these programmes results too often in my having no option but to press the MUTE button, thereby missing the narrative, or switching off altogether. Surely it is not beyond modern technology to let us switch off this unsolicited nonsensical noise, to give us, the licence payer, the right to watch these wonderful programmes in peace and quiet!!

  • Comment number 48.

    Programmes need music. Try watching a one-hour documentary without and you'll understand. Music supports and augments sequences, helps with the development of themes and changes of direction.

    Problems occur when music, Foley, atmos and dense commentary collide. All this needs is careful mixing and, in many cases, less narration.

  • Comment number 49.

    Like many other viewers/listeners I have noticed the increase in intrusive music into TV and radio programmes such that audibility and enjoyment are greatly reduced. The music is so often totally inappropriate to the content. For example, I've giving up watching Countryfile because of the incessant drumming that overlays speech and scenes of country life. I watch some programmes using sub-titles to get ride of the nuisance and completely avoid the Brian Cox series as the music is so over-the-top.
    I use the iPlayer listen again or download pod-casts of many radio programmes and find that the decibel level of the music segments is often much louder than the spoken parts and that this is very unpleasant when listening through headphones.

  • Comment number 50.

    I find the loud noise (known a music to some) so distracting that I stop watching the programme and read a book instead. I do not need music when watching scientific or natural history programmes; the subject matter and commentary, together with the filming, speak for themselves.

  • Comment number 51.

    I work in the industry and have spent many hours in mixing studios where skilled sound engineers do their very best to make dialogue as audible as possible. One overwhelmingly modern problem is that professional sound recordists are no longer automatically sent out with documentary or news crews. Quite often the responsibility has been assigned to the cameraman/woman. Sound is the most technologically challenging area of programme making and broadcasting, its appreciation is also the most subjective which is why adverts always seem much louder than the programme content. Tv sets themselves are much more sophisticated in reproducing sound but compound the problem by providing a variety of settings in their sound set-up which favour "big" sound and squash intimate sound. I am reasonably technically savvy but, having struggled for years to hear dialogue on DVDs, have only just discovered that changing the sound set-up on the TV has solved the problem

  • Comment number 52.

    I don't have any problem with discerning what people are saying. I have very good hearing. My objection to background music accompanying speech in documentary and factual programmes is that I hate it. If programme makers can't stop doing it, then I wish they would give us the option of turning it off at the point of reception, as others in this thread have suggested. If that could happen then I would start watching science programmes again, and listening to the trails on Radio 4.

  • Comment number 53.

    This issue of music is totemic of what was wrong with this programme; It seemed to be all about what Cox calls 'the cinematic experience' and not much to do with science; This programme would better be called "Brian Cox stares enigmatic into sunsets to music"

  • Comment number 54.

    A few years the BBC trialled a red button option allow people to remove background music. I seem to remember a BBC exec later saying it was being withdrawn as it detracted from the editorial coherence. But surely the BBC could allow viewers their own choice on how to consume and enjoy what they've paid the licence fee for?

  • Comment number 55.

    This has been a problem for a while, and it's about time it was addressed. I even ended up watching drama programmes like Doctor Who and Hustle with subtitles on!

  • Comment number 56.

    Have to agree with a lot of these comments, I generally watch iplayer documentaries with good quality headphones and sometimes struggle to hear the presenter over the loud background music. Have found this to be fairly standard on other documentaries as well and not just the BBC. One gets the impression that sound mixers in general all have cloth ears and are more interested in the music they are adding than ensuring that the programme content is the main focus. As another comment mentioned, any music should be almost subliminal and only raised when there is a pause in the commentary.

  • Comment number 57.

    Background music and noise on TV may be a nuisance but at least you have vision and if necessary subtitles. On Radio 4 the problem is far worse. Programme makers have people talking in busy streets or other noisy locations, as though the producers feel that radio must imitate TV. Often I have to turn off even when I'm really interested in the programme. Keep it simple, please!

  • Comment number 58.

    In this digital age , why cannot we choose to have bacjground music or not?

  • Comment number 59.

    I sincerely hope this review will change programmes for the better. I'm in my 20's and even I struggle to catch all the words spoken in programmes these days.

    Complaints are certainly not indicative of the number of people experiencing problems, as Brian Cox seems to suggest, and most people do just suffer in silence and make do with a partial understanding of the speech in programmes. I myself have never complained - instead I have resorted to watching all tv with subtitles (although this isn't an ideal solution for things like news programmes, as the subtitles lag far behind what's being said, plus they can obscure the picture).

    When there are no subtitles available I feel I have to turn the volume up far too loud just to be able to make out all the words, which means the music gets even louder and risks disturbing neighbours!

    On a side note, loud adverts are also a problem and particularly irritate me when I've had to turn up the volume of a non-subtitled programme to make out the words only to be audibly blasted when the first ad appears. The noise level of adverts in comparison to programmes is so bad that I now just mute them all and walk away from the tv to do something else until the programme comes back on.

  • Comment number 60.

    Hmmm. the BBC is obviously caught between a rock and a hard place; the audience have views and the fact they are 'shareholders' ie they MUST pay the licence fee.
    But the truth is that program makers mostly do check the sound balance when dubbing (Sound mixing) every show. When I used to do it, we first mixed the show listening to stunning expensive loudspeakers (to make sure we didn't miss anything and everything was as good as it could be), and then listened again using much more average and representative speakers. We also applied the logic that the average viewers' environment was probably noisy like our own homes; kids, cars, kettles, etc. all adding background noise distractions. So obviously the producers and sound guys must bear this in mind when arriving at the final balance. And most do. Tailoring the balance for the mainstream audience is critical, and the presenters opinion can count for little here I guess.
    Finally, Mr Cohen is a sharp cookie (check his CV), but his reference to a 'notch', and only a '4dB change' is misleading and inaccurate; a 3dB reduction is a HALVING OF THE SOUND LEVEL, not much of a notch, then.

  • Comment number 61.

    Ah, more money wasted in research when all it requires is one media savvy and self aware person to sit down for an hour and list the causes of bad sound. While taking down music one notch will help people who have problems discerning sound (for example, in a crowded room), and many people suffer from this though they can hear a pin drop in a quite room, it won't help as whole because the problems lie elsewhere. Here is a short list:
    1. Too much reliance on radio mics (they are NOT as good as hand mics)
    3. Too much compression when signal sent digitally to our "modern" TV sets
    4. Actors and presenters NOT having had ANY training whatsoever (actors mumbling or whispering as if being "real" is what matters (cobblers! Just talentless overpaid actors and directors; you can hear a talented actor whisper from a 100 yards)
    5. Directors NOT having had any training (they write a script, want to direct, producer is desperate, so gives the job to a "writer")
    6. Just plain bad directors who have had training but care more about the picture and listen to the sound on headphones while shooting
    7. Bad sound recordists (most of them are untrained -- I know because I have worked with many)
    8. Bad studio mixers (for example, shows such as QI, Have I Got News For You, etc, has contestants constantly drowned out by the audience laughter and, possibly, canned laughter)
    9. Contestants on shows such as above constantly talking over each other
    10. Presenters talking too fast (Sue MacGregor is a prime example)
    11. Presenters starting a sentence on a high note and then whispering by the time they reach the end (John Humphrys is a prime example while James Naughtie is a good example of someone who doesn't trail off)
    12. Presenters shouting (sports presenters shouting at 6.25am in the morning as if they are surrounded by 30,000 fans singing and shouting)

    I can hear every syllable of sound when I watch old black and white movies (even some colour) but have great difficulty hearing modern dramas where the folly artist has been let lose and music and special effects people have been given half the budget (so it appears), so have to justify their jobs (bad directing/producing at the end of the day).

    I can hear every syllable of sound when I watch a commercial but as soon as its over, the sound drops not only in decibels but (wish someone would give me research money) also in quality (I suspect more compression is applied).

  • Comment number 62.

    It is not so much the usually ill-chosen music (more often muzak) that irritates, it is the inane, superfluous, computer-generated drumming in the background of most programmes and which surges forward whenever there is a gap in the dialogue. It's so predictable and downright boring.

  • Comment number 63.

    There a subtitles - if you have difficulty, use them. Otherwise stop complaining and ruining the experience for the rest of us who like the music and are fed up of - as Brain Cox says - pandering to the "minority".

  • Comment number 64.

    Background music is probably a necessary evil - but it's been too loud, too long - just turn it down!

  • Comment number 65.

    I have been annoyed with TV programs lately. The music trying to lead you some were I don’t want to go!!. The Brian Cox travel show or is it a science program?? I would like to be able to link to web sites to find out more. Not to have all the budget spent on travel, music and why all the time we have an Ex comedian or currant comedian invited into nearly all information programs now.
    So with the irritating music, strange angle camera angles and close up shot long shots out off focuses shots and no information back up!!I will mention the comedian again. No wonder my radio is on 24/7

  • Comment number 66.

    I meant to add that you can guarantee that a shot of a machine at speed will be accompanied by this maddening drumming racket - usually to the extent that it drowns out any sound the machine, for example a car, is making.

  • Comment number 67.

    Thank goodness at last something is being done. I've stopped watching many programmes because of unnecessary background music and noise.

    Also, why can't the sound level between channels be set the same so that we do not have to keep adjusting our volume?

    Programmes such as the One Show should ensure that all participents do NOT talk at the same time. And, when a visitor is asked a question, they should be allowed to answer it or finish answering without interuption.

  • Comment number 68.

    I may be "tone deaf along with those who are now too old to enjoy music" but am intelligent enough to be interested in the commentary.

    As to background music.... in the first series we were shown a landscape as Brian explained it's amazing vast emptiness and the silence - through loud background music. What's the point of showing us the vast empty space if we can't appreciate the silent wonder of it?

    My dislike of loud background music is because my television has to be against my neighbour's wall and out of consideration for them I have to constantly adjust the volume of my tv set.

    On a positive note - the music in Brian's two series is fantastic - just a too loud and inappropriate in places.

  • Comment number 69.

    There is far too much intrusive music on TV and its encroaching R4 too.
    BBC TV engineering standards have fallen in quality control.
    There is none.
    Producers and directors hear their programmes 30 or 40 times ,we hear it once on transmission.
    Ladling on unnconnected music is common in all programme types,its like creeping tinnitus.
    The lack of trained Sound Recordists is evident in many instances,a Cameraman or a Researcher can't provide the same lucid result.
    The introduction of 5.1 surround sound has muddied the sound levels for a viewer with standard stereo tv.
    Continuity announcement are all over the place and obscure the tails of programmes invasively.
    Actors mumble for effect and presenters with obscure and weak voices are mysteriously used for bizarre PC reasoning.
    In short its a horrible mess.

    Less music,better voices,well recorded.
    How simple can that be, 'Its your BBC' ?

  • Comment number 70.

    Tonesalone wrote that everyone else has to put up with poor sound because of some people's terrible hearing. Sorry, but if people with normal hearing suffer from poor sound, those poor hearing suffer even more, which is the point.

    And think about it tonesalone - audio description. Yes, deaf people can listen to audio description, can't they? Actually what that is for is for blind people so they can listen to the scenes being described.

  • Comment number 71.

    If Mr Cohen and the BBC Directors agree to have obtrucive music playing in the room when they are having a meeting then I will agree to have music in the background when people are being interviewed !!!!

  • Comment number 72.

    As one of the 15m people in the UK with hearing loss I think that is great that Danny Cohen and the BBC have worked on ways of making programme commentary clearer without compromising the overall impact of the programme. Many of the above comments seem more focused on having a pop at Brian Cox as a presenter and the choice of music for the soundtrack which is not entirely the point. We are all different - with different needs and different tastes - a producer will never be able to please all of the people all of the time.
    Remember folks - just try looking at TV produced by the rest of the world before you critique the efforts of the Beeb too much. Programmes like Wonders of the Universe or Blue Planet (a programme that also featured a big sound track but no Brian) are world beating products and future BBC programmes can only be improved by this research.
    Well done Danny and the Beeb (and no - I don't work for the BBC!)

  • Comment number 73.

    I agree that there is a problem. However, like many others on this forum, I can't understand how it took 20,000 people, considerable technical work and untold amounts of money to realise that if the actor mumbles, in a noisy environment, with music played over the top makes it difficult to be heard.

    The real research should be around why someone senior within television feels the need for its viewers to be attacked with an audio onslaught whenver they choose to turn onto their channel. As we have seen below, most viewers don't want it, many viewers don't need it and, yet again, we find ourselves at the mercy of the small minority.

  • Comment number 74.

    The excellent Brian Cox is surely misguided in the positioning of his programmes as film. I think he is in danger of confusing his genres at the expense of communication. I am all for science programmes showing us the sublime majesty of the universe but they are not an appropriate arena for experiments in televisual form.

    Leaving aside the ever irksome issues of music over speech, the current crop of programme makers appear to assume that audiences are incapable of getting the point of a scientific statement without the intrusive punctuation of pyrotechnic sound effects. The noise of a tank brigade ram-raiding a dustbin warehouse adds nothing to the appreciation of a carefully written narrative, however dramatic the story. Do they think that our attention spans are so short that we are incapable of assimilating a connected series of statements and arguments without the point being bludgeoned into us?

    During it’s heyday in the 80’s and 90’s the BBC’s Horizon programme was a model of the appropriate use of music in science programmes; the music editors and programme makers back then displayed intelligence, sensitivity, and an awareness of when background music could be used to thrilling effect. Today, Horizon and Michael Mosley’s programmes, to name but two, are virtually unwatchable because the current generation of ‘X-Station’ hyperactive sound designers with their apocalyptic arsenals of recording toys seem to have been set free to provide the soundtrack to WW3. And whilst I'm at it, isn't it about time the BBC 1 news intro was rid of it's idiot banging and beeping?

  • Comment number 75.

    Your choice of audio examples on the Today programme was rediculous. David Attenborough was whispering due to the proximity of the animals he was describing and his wish not to scare them, the Brian Cox clip was the very start of the programme containing very little of importance. Later, when he was explaining rather complex issues about the Universe, the music was far more intrusive as we tried to concentrate. Furthermore, we could have used the remote to increase the volume of the Attenborough clip successfully, as there was no background music to be amplifed along with his speech. The term 'music' is also a matter of debate. We choose to watch Brian Cox as WE like his subject, we choose to listen to music WE like. The 'music' which producers choose is often very irritating as it is not OUR choice, in addition to its high volume, and so greatly detracts from our enjoyment of a chosen programme. Also, very irritating, endless loops of tinkling, jingling, banging, whooshing 'music' are very common. The second episode of Wonders of the Universe was far, far more enjoyable then the first.

  • Comment number 76.

    It's not just those with hearing loss that have an issue with "background" music. I'm in my 30s and have dyslexia and, as part of that, auditory processing disorder. This means that my brain finds it extremely difficult to seperate one sound from another when there is lots of competing sounds at the same time. When there is loud music in the background, or even just a lot of noise in general, my brain simply cannot distinguish the important sounds from the non-important ones.

    As a result I've watched less and less TV to the point that I rarely, if ever, turn on my TV as I just can't understand most programmes.

  • Comment number 77.

    As a forty-something with poor hearing, this is manna from heaven. However, my family will be equally delighted if someone at BBC HD would notice that your switching between stereo and 5.1 (especially during announcements between shows) means a massive change of volume.

    With the volume on my surround amp turned up so that I can hear the dialogue, I have to grab the remote before the announcer speaks between programmes or the entire house is deafened by a surround sound blast!

  • Comment number 78.

    One reason that I think has lead to this problem is that modern TV's have much better speakers on them that are suited to cinematic and music much better than older TVs which really only played mid-range well i.e. voices.

    As a result even some old programmes watched on newer sets seem to now have overbearing music.

  • Comment number 79.

    I've a far bigger issue with inconsistent volume of sound. You'll get medium-loud intro music, followed by relatively quiet speech, followed by a deafening special effect which means changing the volume constantly. One program can be at a completely different volume from the next & the link between the two louder still. This is on both satellite & terestrial so its a production issue not a broadcast one.

    Incidentally loud background music CAN be highly appropriate: think the bit on ET where the kids escape on their bikes without any music? In fact most of Spielbergs films need the music to complement the action (Indiana Jones, Jurassic park etc).

  • Comment number 80.

    I've just watched a few minutes of the first and second episodes of Brian Cox's new documentary series on iPlayer, and the difference is quite obvious, even though I hadn't noticed this when I watched them when first broadcast. For what it's worth, from my side-by-side comparison I think the BBC have gone too far in lowering the background music. Something halfway between the two would have been ideal!

  • Comment number 81.

    Thank heavens! The voice of sanity rings out! Many times I have had to resort to subtitles to have any idea what is being said in dramas. It has nothing to do with regional accents, which I think we are all getting more used to these days, just the level of the mainly unnecessary background music. I also find it very annoying to have a continuous, over-dramatic music track in such programmes as the new series on the Wonders of the Universe. It is such an interesting subject and the4 music just continues to detract from what is being said. Less PLEASE!!

  • Comment number 82.

    As per most comments above. I fear I do not agree with my fellow Northerner Brian re: comments on how splendid it is to have science programmes dressed up as entertainment with a load of latter day Ooompah as a backing track. Likewise whilst some of the visuals are staggeringly delightful a lot of them are a lazy distracting mess that waste expository resource. Eg some helicopter type shots circling Brian speeded up whilst he boggles on about how amazing it all is. We come as viewers with the sense of awe and wonder.

    What I would really like to see is a genuinely charismatic and intelligent personality convey the real essence of the ideas by word and clever beautiful metaphor. Not this sensory mish mash of a dogs dinner we constantly get served up with that sadly betrays a lack of imagination by the producers who have been seduced by easy form over presenting difficult content.

  • Comment number 83.

    This is an issue I have complained about and received a rather neutral response. The first issue is whether there is a need for background music on TV while the presenter is struggling to make a point against it? I suppose this lies in the "editorial vision" category.

    Surely the key to enjoyment is the visual/verbal message, not some imposed background theme?

    There is another related issue. The attempt to create realism on the radio by having actors further away, presumably to replicate spatial positioning (e.g. The Archers). With the speech competing against animal sounds, background music, and general hubbub, it is impossible sometimes to understand the actors. What editors fail to realise is that in real life the listener has the choice of asking the speaker to speak up and/or move closer to the source, not something possible on the radio!

    Please, let us have more sense in production, and remember that the clients cannot appreciate "editorial vision" that destroys the understanding of the programme.

  • Comment number 84.

    I have been writing to the BBC for a long time complaining about the bad speech both by some newsreaders ,presenters and contributors. They mumble, drop their voices at the end of a sentence, speak too quickly, some even speak into estury English (I have to ask my wife in what foreign language they speak!) E.g Any Questions and Any Answers. Some of the members of the panel speak as if they are in a pub, slurring their voices.Some questioners from the audience just mumble...surely it is not beyond the capabilities of the BBC to give all particpants a little training?

    I have made already a comment regarding Brian Cox's suggestion that music as a background to speech is helpful! To what end? The mixture of music and speech makes the speech totally incomprehensible. 9 million persons in UK have hearing problems (source : The Royal Institute for the Deaf).

    So, please BBC, do take note of the problems suffered by the 9 millions. I am hard of hearing and even my two hearing aids do not make bad speech comprehensible. Please do something about it

    Alex Lawrence

    [Personal details removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 85.

    New technology such as YouView should allow separate controls for voice level and music level. Something as simple as 'normal' and 'low' for music would eliminate the problem, although as a few people have pointed out, this is probably not too difficult right now as a red button option.

    If the presenter is simply a voice over (i.e. not in shot) such as 'Human Planet' then viewers could even choose an intellectual depth for their commentary, although clearly this would need sensitive signposting (no one wants to label themselves an idiot). This would give the same programme, i.e. sequence of shots, much greater reach and reusability on different channels, for schools and colleges, or for a general audience at a very low cost to programme makers as it is often only the intellectual level of the voice over which separates a BBC2 doc from one on BBC4.

  • Comment number 86.

    Now that we have proof that loud 'background ' music affects some people with disabilities can we have a 'reasonable adjustment' please?

  • Comment number 87.

    0.003% of viewers (if they even watched the programme) complained. 99.997% had no problem understanding the clear narrative and did not find the background music intrusive but instead contributive to the quality and cinematic experience. If you would like to watch a scientific documentary with no background music then do so. Go visit a lecture hall, watch/listen to the professors talks at the TED, watch a science programme that is focused solely on the science aspect. Such a small minority should not dictate the way in which a programme is presented to the overwhelming majority of viewers. My grandmother watched this, she has hearing issues and strangely enough she had no problem whatsoever in distinguishing between the music and voice audio, in fact she enjoyed the combination. We had no reason to even suspect that the narrative was inaudible until we read the press highlighting the shocking case of 118 viewers out of 3.9 million expressing their position, of which many were simply unnappreciative of the musical accompaniment or of Brian Cox rather than having a real difficulty in understanding the script.

  • Comment number 88.

    I very much agree with the complaints about sound levels and unnecessary gimmicks. I had to give up with Brian Cox's programmes because of the noise, there is nothing wrong with my hearing by the way. His voice was almost drowned out at some points and I really was interested in what he had to say, so to say it was frustrating is an understatement. The Danish The Killing has background music but it very much low key and enhances the drama which surely what it is meant to do?

  • Comment number 89.

    It appears that massive research and money are now telling the BBC exactly what it's public has been complaining about for decades - that we cannot hear what most people are saying - for whatever reasons!

    It frankly amazes me how long and how little the BBC listens to it's customers for millions have been hammering away on this subject.

    When, therefore, will we start to 'hear' the change?

  • Comment number 90.

    Can anything be done to remove or reduce the awful drumming sound that goes with the reading of the headlines at the beginning of BBC Television News programmes

  • Comment number 91.

    i've recently been rewatching the ascent of man (fascinating to compare this with brian cox), where the use of music is much more subtle than programmes nowadays

    but i do find that (especially with dramas) actors who mumble make the programme difficult - so i watch with subtitles (silk, glee, good wife etc etc)

  • Comment number 92.

    A 4 db drop in music volume is reducing the actual physical level by more than half. Of course it's going to make anything competing with it easier to hear. You shouldn't have needed a study to tell you that. Sound is logarithmic, but that doesn't mean you can hear a refrigerator whilst vacuuming, even though there may only be a 20% difference in the number of decibels between the two.

  • Comment number 93.

    I seem to remember several years ago about complaining about atrociously loud amplification when dancing in a ceilidh and being told that sound engineer was very good and and his day job was working for the BBC.

    On similar lines, worth mentioning that when for the second time I tried looking at The Killing on IPlayer I remembered why I'd stopped first time - too much fussy quick-cut camera-work. If you notice the camera-work, it isn't working. Same with sound on TV programmes - it's there to do a job, not to be noticed.

  • Comment number 94.

    I think the content and music of the Wonders of the Universe are both excellent – I can understand that music might interfere with those who are hard of hearing but as someone with normal hearing I find the music enhances this entertaining and informative programme. Let's help the hard of hearing by the use of technology – not by robbing the rest of us of a potentially rewarding experience.

    As an ex-university lecturer I think to use music or any other means of conveying passion as well as information is simply being a professional communicator/teacher. While I agree with Paul Watson that some documentaries do not need music, I felt his attitude was a little bit too "holier than thou" when criticising the use of music by Prof Cox. Well done Brian, keep up the good and inspiring communication.

  • Comment number 95.

    Background music should be in the BACKGROUND. If we wish to listen to, and learn from the commentary, there is no reason why the music should be invasive.
    This has been a problem with audio over many years e.g. C.D. s, where the backing drowns out the vocals- I think it's called 'over production' . No excuse whatsoever considering the hi-tech equipment available to producers.

  • Comment number 96.

    I don't know what people are harping on about. I've been watching 'Wonders Of The Universe' and haven't thought the music too loud at all. I think the problem is people don't like the choice or style of music. If 'Wonders Of The Universe' was accompanied with grunge metal than I think people would have cause to complain.

  • Comment number 97.

    I agree with Brian, this series is not a lecture it is a film and as such should be viewed accordingly. When I watched the last episode I thought the music was too low!
    Please can we have the option to turn it up, maybe on the iplayer?

  • Comment number 98.

    Yes, Yes, Please lower the background music with most programmes. The dialogue is practically indistinguishable in some good programmes, and the volume of the music is overpowering. Good move!!

  • Comment number 99.

    It's not just music levels in BBC documentaries... Every element of information seems to require it's own 'bedding track' to establish its presence or continuity:

    The volume levels of music in programme trails have increased incrementally and are particularly objectionable when they are layered over end-credits and closing soundtracks producing both aural and visual interference (as well as being disrespectful to the programme-makers!). One possible reason is programme-makers feel that with the increase in usage of flat-screen televisions, laptops, tablet computers and mobile phones all of which emphasise mid and high-frequency (through absence of lower frequencies), that they need to increase music volume levels to compensate.

    The majority of BBC networks (both television and radio) often feature a 'boom/tizz' sound-bed under speech often of 'phone' quality. What is the point of this? This practice compromises both clarity and comprehension and suggests that producers feel that it is needed to 'enhance' the content.

    However, my primary concern is that music is apparently used to enhance the narration or commentary which in Professor Cox's case is often bombastic, cliche-ridden and vain. The choice to feature his voice only in this series undoubtedly provides continuity, but lacks the light and shade required to engage and illuminate resulting in a single-paced presentation which might explain the resort to high-volume music to provide emphasis when the limited vocabulary and range of the presenter is found wanting.

  • Comment number 100.

    I think there seems to be a case of mass hearing defectiveness. And certainly if commenting on Brian Cox's programme. Its a beautifully crafted, captivating series making an otherwise inaccessible topic very watchable. I say dont mess with perfection. Rather, if you are having problems, it may very well be that you have not got your TVs set up right. Lets not get too complicated here - all modern TVs have equalisers and other audio settings which I have actually got set up right and it sounds perfect. If you cant be bothered doing that then buy yourself a CRT from the 1950s and it will sound just like it used to. Oh and one last thing. 96 posts complaining out of a viewing figure of 3.9 million makes you a minority. Brian Cox - keep doing what you're doing! Great TV BBC - dont mess with it!


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