A British study into speech intelligibility on TV has revealed that 71% of UK adults cannot always clearly hear what is being said. This means that around 35 million Britons cannot properly hear what is being said on TV.
In the study, 70% of the adults surveyed online recorded problems. 59% occasionally had problems, while 11% reported always or often having problems hearing what was being said. For the over 65 age group, this figure rose to 76%, whereas 59% occasionally had problems and 17% always or often had problems.
62% of those over 65 described the use of background music as reducing their enjoyment of a program. And of those over 65 with poor or very poor hearing, 99% had difficulty hearing speech clearly on TV even though 61% of them use hearing aids.
Recording method important
However, the biggest surprise was that the issue of poor speech intelligibility had much more to do with technical issues during a program's recording than the subsequent overlaying of a soundtrack. Detailed analysis of 22 programs identified as causing difficulties revealed that the majority of audibility problems resulted from the method by which speech is recorded. Adding background music merely made the audibility worse.
A total of 8,000 members of the BBC Pulse adult online panel, and 508 non-internet users aged over 65 took part in the study.
BBC launches training initiative
The BBC is so concerned at the findings that it has launched an industry-wide training initiative through the BBC Academy. A series of training modules based on the findings are being made available to the whole broadcasting industry. They will also be used in college courses including the National Film and TV School.