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NOISE LEVEL

Throughout  the development of radio and television, a main obstacle to good sound quality has been unwanted background noise.  In technical terms, we aimed for a good "signal to noise ratio" which was measured in decibels.
 
Such noise could be the hiss of valve amplifiers, the "surface noise" of disc recordings, rumble from turntable motors, magnetic tape hiss, and so on.  Medium and long wave transmission also introduced lots of crackles and whistles.
 
Now, with modern FM transmission and digital recording, these noise levels have been almost eliminated.  But it seems that some of our programme producers and directors just cannot stand this silent backgound.  They have at their disposal a battery of electronic drum machines and automatic rhythm units, with which they bombard us with some of the most appalling sounds.  These can range from the mildly irritating to the positively maddening.
 
BBC news bulletins have those throbbing deep bass drums, which persist for up to a minute and a halfat the start, in the middle and at the end of each half-hour programme.  They seem to be pitched at a frequency that resonates with every thing in the room including our chest cavities.  Could they be approaching "infrasound" which is known to be harmful?  ITV news seems to bring in drums quite randomly in any part of the programme.  Channel 4 news stays remarkably drum-free.
 
The various "actuality" and "makeover" programmes tend to be the worst, but some documentaries and dramas have been so bad that we have abandoned viewing.  At times we have even tried viewing silently with subtitles.  Our mute button is the one most used and the first to wear out, not only to silence adverts and sport, but also these accursed drums.  Sometimes we find ourselves viewing with a thumb continually covering this button.
 
Have today's producers never heard of background music?  I remember a recent programme from the Chelsea Flower Show.  One would think if any backgound were needed, a light oirchestral one would be appropriate.  But no.  We had to have this loud clashing and banging of drums,  Can someone tell me why?

I wonder sometimes if there is something more sinister behind the use of these drums.  Along with the weird animated logos, could they be some kind of "IPCRESS File"  conditioning, to numb our minds and turn us into better consumers so that we borrow and spend more?  Brave new world here we come!  Beware - if you don't notice the drums, it may already be too late for you.
 
Thank goodness for Radio 4 with its present ow noise level, and a hope that it remains so.

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