Peers grumble about mumbling in TV shows like SS-GB and Taboo

Written by James Millar on 4 April 2017 in Diary

House of Lords tackles the important issue of some people not being able to hear what Tom Hardy is saying

Peers tried to prove they are not out of touch this afternoon in exchanges about hit TV shows SS-GB, Happy Valley and Taboo.

They weren't entirely successful after one Tory baroness complained about young people's poor eluction,

The first item of business for the House of Lords was a question from Lord Naseby about complaints from many viewers that they couldn't make out what actors were saying in TV shows like SS-GB and Tom Hardy vehicle Taboo.

The former Tory MP claimed the BBC was the "main offender" when it came to mumbly TV. 2014 series Jamaica Inn was widely criticised for being indecipherable and Lord Naseby claimed there had been hundreds of complaints about programmes since then. 

Government minister Lord Ashton put that in context by pointing out the BBC had produced 66,000 hours of TV since 2014 but just six programmes had attracted criticism over its dialogue in that time. He accepted that viewers should be able to hear their favourite shows but said it wasn't the government's role to intervene.

That didn't stop other peers offering advice though. Lord Gordon suggested the problem was down to a combination of poor sound systems in modern TVs and poor hearing among his elderly colleagues. Tory Baroness Rawlings accused "many young actors and people in general" of failing to enunciate properly. She added: "Elocution and language is so important. If people spoke clearer there would be less misunderstanding and less trouble in the world."

A slew of peers involved in TV and film also joined in. Lord Fellows, who wrote Downton Abbey and won an Oscar for Gosford Park, suggested that mumbling was a fashion that would pass. Lord Dobbs, who wrote House of Cards, said all dialogue was clear on the page and crossbencher Baroness Kidron, who directed the Bridget Jones sequel, suggested viewers should value "fine performance over fine diction." Though judging by the cries of "oh no!" from her colleagues it would seem she was in the minority among her upper chamber colleagues.


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