Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Varying Volume Levels of BBC Podcasts

The BBC's podcast offerings are a fantastic selection of the best of radio output that the corporation broadcasts, and I take full advantage of this, currently being subscribed to:

1Xtra Drum and Bass Top 5
Broadcasting House
Craft Beer Radio (non-BBC)
Craft Beer Radio - Extra Feed (non-BBC)
Crossing Continents
Digital Planet
Dr Karl and the Naked Scientist
Excess Baggage
File on 4
Forum - A World of Ideas
From Our Own Correspondent
Front Row Highlights
Front Row Interview
Great Lives
In Our Time
Law in Action
Material World
More or Less Behind the Stats
Paul Jones Rhythm And Blues
Politics UK
Radio 1's Best of Unsigned / Introducing
Radio 4 Choice
Start the Week
The Bottom Line with Evan Davis
The Now Show / Newsquiz (Friday night comedy)
Thinking Allowed
Today in Parliament
Today Lead Interviews
Weekly Political Review

NB: not all of these podcasts are active at any one time - shows run in seasons. If you want a starter, I would recommend the weekly Broadcasting House, which aims to be the radio equivalent of sitting in a cafe with friends reading the Sunday papers. Also Today in Parliament is a fascinating daily round-up of what has been going on in our political sphere - a great pod if such things interest you (and they jolly well should!). To subscribe, so that the pods are downloaded automatically, use any podcast software such as Happyfish (the one I use) or iTunes.

Anyway, I recently felt spurred into emailing the BBC regarding the fact that the musical podcasts above (Paul Jones Rhythm And Blues, Radio 1's Introducing etc) are significantly louder than the spoken word pods. Why is this? I can only assume it is a handover from the broadcasting trick of setting your atation louder so that it stands out as people tune their radios. Completely unnecessary, and the cause of irritation to me every time my mp3 player moves on to one of these shows when I am briefly aurally assaulted until I can reach the volume control on my mp3 player. Stop this practice, BBC!

Anyway, here's the correspondence:

Dear Sir / Madam,

I listen to many of the BBC's advertised podcasts and am generally very happy with the setup, thank-you.

One issue I do have though is that you clearly ramp up the overall volume levels for the "music" podcasts - for example Huw Stephens Radio One Introducing Show.

I understand that there are arguments for doing this with broadcast radio, in order to catch the attention of someone channel surfing, but this is completely unnecessary for podcasts, and every time I find myself scrambling to access the volume control on my mp3 player, today almost having an accident doing so.

I would be grateful if you would pass my comments to the appropriate person, and ideally consider normalising volume levels across all of the BBC's podcasting output.

Thanks in advance,

Sam Crawley

And the Beeb's response:

Dear Samuel

Thank you for your e-mail.

I was pleased to learn that you enjoy the BBC podcasts but understand that you feel the music podcasts are much louder than the spoken word ones.

Please be assured that all of your comments have been registered on our daily feedback log, this is a daily report of audience feedback that's circulated to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, channel controllers and other senior managers.

Thank you for taking the time to contact the BBC.


BBC Information


I don't suppose anything will be done, but I live in hope, both for myself and for my hearing!


lewis said...

you have too much time to listen to all these podcasts!! do some bloody work!

Sam Crawley said...

I see rather than studying you are reading my blog. Interesting!