15 October 2019

BBC tests technology to remove unwanted noise from TV dramas

The BBC is testing a system that will allow viewers to remove background music and other distracting noise from TV dramas, thus making it easier to hear spoken dialogue. The move follows a deluge of complaints about inaudible actors in dramas such as War and Peace and Jamaica Inn.

In July, the corporation tested the technology with an episode of Casualty that was streamed on its website. The relevant web page included a slider alongside the standard volume control. Keeping the slider on the right-hand side retained the full audio. Moving it to the left reduced background noise, including music, making it easier to understand the spoken word.

The BBC said that the response from viewers was "overwhelmingly positive". Of the 3,300 people who viewed the on-line episode, 80 percent described it as an improvement.

The technology is targeted at the 11 million people in the UK who suffer from some form of hearing loss as well as many others who say that unnecessary background music spoils their enjoyment.

But before you start hunting for that slider, be aware that the system is still very much under development. And even when it becomes available (and no date as been announced for that), it won't necessarily work on existing TV sets that receive programmes over the air. To use the technology, you will have to watch TV on a computer or an TV that can stream from the internet.

So far, the focus has been on removing background noise from dramas. It is not clear whether the BBC will also apply the technology to documentaries, which are also the target of viewers' complaints. Still, it is very much a step in the right direction, and one that we at Quiet Scotland are likely to fully support.


  1. Replies
    1. Thanks for your comment, Dodie. I didn't mention this in the blog post, but I hope they will also use the technology with radio programmes, as these also frequently contain distracting background noise.