BBC identifies Jamaica Inn ‘mumblegate’ issues as “perfect storm” of sound problems

The Corporation confirms it has got to the bottom of the problems which caused millions of viewers to complain about the flagship drama - and vows that lessons have been learned, can reveal

The BBC has finally diagnosed what sources say was a “perfect storm” responsible for the sound problems on the BBC1 drama Jamaica Inn – and has vowed that lessons have been learned, can reveal.


It is understood that a mixture of technical problems and issues around mumbling actors have been identified following a thorough investigation.

The BBC could not comment on the specifics of the findings but a spokeswoman told “We have thoroughly looked into what caused the sound problems but there isn’t one explanation to single out alone. However, it has highlighted a range of problems that can occur with sound in drama and we would like to reassure audiences that we will learn from this to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

It is understood that a “perfect storm” of issues was the problem, according to sources, with around five areas of major concern.

They are understood to be technical in nature, but the intelligibility of some of the acting was also flagged as an issue, understands.

The source added that one of the potential solutions would be to diminish the levels of incidental music on future dramas, which can obscure the intelligibility of speech, while playing the dialogue track higher up in the sound mixing process.

An estimated two thousand viewers in total complained to the BBC over the audio issues and around a quarter of the audience gave up on the drama, with the 6.1 million that tuned in to Easter Monday’s opening episode dropping to 4.5 million for episode two, according to the overnight ratings.

Initially, the BBC blamed “issues with sound levels” on the master tape, and scriptwriter Emma Frost said at the time there was a problem with transmission. However since the BBC launched an investigation a whole host of issues are understood to have arisen.

Viewers also singled out Sean Harris, who played the landlord of Jamaica Inn and wicked uncle of Mary Yellan (Jessica Brown Findlay), for particular criticism.

Harris was also fingered by Daphne du Maurier’s son Kits Browning.

“Thank God Sean Harris’ character gets killed,” he told, adding that the sound problems were “a real shame”.

“I blame the director and the sound man – and an actor who just mumbled. If anyone else feels the same way I just suggest you go and read the book.

“In the end I had to resort to subtitles because I wanted to see [scriptwriter] Emma Frost’s wonderful words. I feel so sorry for Emma Frost – she did a wonderful adaptation.”