The BBC has been accused of patronising and ignoring its viewers after complaints its latest Sunday night period drama was drowned out by background music.
Howards End, the corporationâs much-anticipated new drama, was rendered barely audible to some viewers, who complained the levels of sound meant piano music and violins overpowered the charactersâ lines.
Calling it âintrusiveâ, âexcessiveâ and âinfuriatingâ, some licence fee-payers said they spent the hour trying to change the sound levels on their televisions to improve it, or had given up to switch off entirely.
Viewers' grievances come in the wake of numerous other BBC sound problems, with programmes including Jamaica Inn, SS-GB, Brian Coxâs Wonders of the Universe and a range of natural history programmes suffering poor dialogue and noisy background music.The BBC's version of Howards End was accused of spoiling dialogue with music Credit: BBC
But eight years since it first attempted to tackle the problem with a study into viewersâ experience, the BBC is still besieged with complaints it has failed to solve it.
On Monday, the corporation refused to respond to viewers' opinions, with a spokesman saying only that it would not be commenting or disclosing the number of official complaints it hasÂ received.Â
External publicists for the programme, which is made by Playground Entertainment, also declined to respond.
One viewer, writing on Twitter, said she had found the Howards End music so loud she may not tune in to the remainder of the four-part series, adding: âEvery time people complain to the BBC about loud soundtracks they are patronised and ignored.âThe BBC is airing a four-part adaptation of EM Forster's classic novel Credit: BBC
Numerous people said they had given up on the first episode of the show, confessing they âcouldnât stand the most intrusive and dominating musicâ and noting: âIt seems the BBC has yet again ruined a drama with too loud background music.â
Philip Andrews, commenting on the Telegraph website, said: âI lasted about a quarter of an hour. The sound was awful you couldn't really hear the dialogue clearly because of the jarring background musicâ
âAnother ruined drama by the use of loud inane music,â said another viewer online. âJust when you think itâs stopped, the flaming harp and violins start again.â
âWhat is it with BBC and sound? Every bl---y series, music over dialogue,â a sixth complained, as Twitter user lamented: âYet another BBC drama spoiled by muffled sound, made worse by the music drowning out the dialogue.â
#howardsEnd The CGI sets are a trifle obvious - there's a strange disconnect with the actors. And the music is so loud I am not sure I will even watch the next episode. But every time people complain to the BBC about loud soundtracks they are patronised and ignored.— Jean Hood (@jeanhoodauthor) November 12, 2017
Given up on #HowardsEnd - couldnât stand the most intrusive and dominating music— Keith Bothwell (@KeithBothwell) November 12, 2017
Agh the music is drowning out the dialogue. No idea whatâs going on #HowardsEnd— Charlie Harden ðªðº (@charlieharden1) November 12, 2017
#HowardsEnd what is up with the audio? Canât hear the speech, but the background music etc. is too loud. Keep having to adjust the volume...ð¡— Colin Shekleton (@ColinSheks) November 12, 2017
Howards End, an adaptation of EM Forsterâs novel by Oscar winner Kenneth Lonergan and starring Hayley Atwell and Matthew Macfadyen, was watched by 6.8 million viewers, with a 33 per cent share of the audience for its Sunday night time slot.
Complaints come after at least eight years of apparently concerted effort to improve the sound at the BBC.
In 2009, it vowed to tackle the problem after finding that viewersâ struggles to hear dialogue had become one of its most common complaints.
Launching the BBC Vision's Audibility project to survey 20,000 people about its sound, it identified background music, clarity of speech, unfamiliar accents and background noise during filming as key issues, with television experts later explaining that modern in-built speakers also had an effect.Rosalind Eleazar as Jacky Bast and Joseph Quinn as Leonard Bast Credit: BBC
In 2011, the then-controller of BBC television Danny Cohen announced a âbest practice guideâ produced with the results of the study, with dozens of sound tips published on its Academy website.
Three years later, drama Jamaica Inn attracted almost 2,200 complaints about mumbled lines and thick accents, with theÂ House of Lords debating television audio earlier this year.Â
Wonders of the Universe, 125 Years of Wimbledon and, this month, the new series of Blue Planet are among the programmes criticised for overbearing soundtracks.
The Telegraph awarded the programme five stars, saying it âradiated qualityâ, while the Guardian noted its efforts to include âcharacters of colourâ in the Edwardian storyline.