Nan DeVincent-Hayes, Ph.D               [ Back ]    [ Home ]    

OPINION COLUMN “Here’s a Thought.”                  

by Nan DeVincent-Hayes                                                            Computer Word count without headings/blurb: 634

   Go Tell It to the Stations

            You’re busy, writing, watching the kids, listening to your husband, and you just sit down to watch a TV show. It looks like a good movie–one that you can handle while micro-managing everything else at the same time. But the dialogue is low...too low; you’re missing the words, catching only a few here and there, some sounding similar to other words that don’t even seem right in the conversation. You grab your trusty remote and hit the “voice up” arrow. Still the people are talking too darn low. Push the volume up another notch.

“What’d he say?” you ask your husband when you thought the character said  “Ice cream every night” when what they really said is “I scream every night”–an important aspect of the movie. Push again, and the volume goes up to 13. It’s better now; you can make out almost every word.

Out of nowhere comes music so loud that you’re breathless. Frantically you reach for the remote which by now is in the dog’s mouth who dropped it at the blaring. Your fingers tap dance as your thumb depresses the volume button.

Minutes later: “What? Are they talking again?” your husband says in an attempt to get you to increase the voice level. He’s can’t hear it either. Back up to level 13 where you can almost hear every word when articulated properly. “I still can’t hear,” he mumbles. You turn it up some more.

How nice that scene was. Tears well in the corners of your eyes; the voices soften in timing with the drama on the show. Then comes the music, strident, loud. You turn down the volume. “Can’t you regulate that remote,” teases your husband.

Cut to commercial: Music and shrieking voices sound in such a cacophony that your heart fibrillates. Your spouse yells louder over the noise, “Turn it down!”

“You just told me to turn it up. How can they do that?” You yell back to your husband who’s still whining he can’t hear. “How can they allow voices to be at one level, music at another, and commercials as loud as they darn well want? That’s not legal. There oughta be a law that says they can’t increase the volume of anything not at the level of the voices.”

He rolls his eyes. “Well, that bill ought to pass if anyone can figure out how to word it.”

But it isn’t right, is it? It’s unfair to be sitting there engrossed in a show, having the volume level where you want it when suddenly a commercial breaks your eardrums. Does that mean we have to sit in front of the television with our fingers on the ready buttons of the remote to constantly juggle back and forth between high and low?

Here’s a thought. Let’s have all manufacturers create a device that will somehow outfit your TV to automatically adjust for different sound levels. I understand that the newer models do this to a certain extent but who wants to put a new model TV just volume control when the picture is just fine? We need some kind of regulation.

Certainly there are by far more important issues the FCC and other regulatory commissions should be handling rather than the sound level that best makes you happy, but there really should be some kind of agreement that allocates a parallel volume among dialogue, music, and commercials.  If my remote reads at a volume level of 13 for the show, why should it be okay to jump to 40 for advertising? Do sponsors think we’re so dumb that they have to hit us over the head with blaring noise to sell their project?

Here’s an even better idea: Just shut the darn thing off and spend the time with your family.


Nan DeVincent-Hayes, Ph.D. 

Copyright 2002 Nan Hayes