Keeley Hawes blames flat screen TVs for mumblegate

Actors aren't mumbling, you just need to adjust your set.

Actress Keeley Hawes has said she thinks TV sets are to blame for a spate of dramas in which viewers were not able to hear the dialogue.

BBC series Jamaica Inn, SS-GB and Happy Valley have all been the subject of audience complaints in recent years, with viewers claiming that lines were mumbled and inaudible.

But Keeley, who has starred in dramas The Missing and Line Of Duty for the broadcaster, reckons the problem is with people’s technology at home.

Keeley Hawes
Keeley Hawes thinks TVs are to blame for the sound problems (Ian West/PA)

She told the Daily Mirror: “My take, and I think it has been established, is that there is a huge change in how we watch TV and what we watch it on.

“I know in my house we have a flat screen, as most people do, and we have a sound bar.

“We have a TV in another room without a sound bar and the sound is less good. I think that is part of the problem.”

Keeley, who is currently starring in ITV series The Durrells, said she always makes sure to enunciate properly.

She said: “I am aware that in any conversation in life, I need you to hear me. As long as you can hear each other, that is all you can do. If I can’t hear you, obviously no one is going to be able to.”

She went on: “There is a tonal thing. In something like The Missing, if you were talking about the abduction of a child you would lower your voice.

Keeley Hawes
Keeley says she makes sure to speak clearly (Isabel Infantes/PA)

“You have a microphone there so you are lulled into a false sense of security thinking it will be picked up.”

After complaints about Happy Valley in 2016, executive producer Nicola Schindler offered similar reasoning to Keeley.

She told the Daily Mail: “I actually think a lot of it is people’s televisions, that they’re not tuned necessarily the right way.

Happy Valley
Happy Valley, starring Sarah Lancashire, drew sound complaints (BBC)

“I don’t know whether it’s bass or tone, or whatever it is, but there is some of that going on.”

The mumbling problem has become so great that peers even discussed it at question time earlier this month.

Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, also known as Lord Fellowes of West Stafford, told the Lords: “The fashion for mumbling dialogue in search of greater truth, because that’s what it’s all about, is simply that, a fashion.”

Julian Fellowes
Julian Fellowes has expressed his irritation at mumbled dialogue (Ian West/PA)

He added: “We had a lot of trouble with it in the 1950s and 60s and when it comes to an unfortunate fashion the Government has no proper role other than to hope it will soon pass.”

Culture, media and sport minister Lord Ashton of Hyde agreed the issue was about editorial policy under the director’s charge, adding: “One person’s mumbling is another person’s atmosphere.”


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