Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wimbledon 2011: Online tool to turn down volume of grunting

Radio listeners in the United Kingdom won't be subjected to loud shrieking coming from their wireless sets during Wimbledon. The BBC recently unveiled a new program that allows listeners of live Wimbledon broadcasts to minimize the sound of on-court grunting.

This week, BBC's Radio 5 released NetMix, an online tool that gives viewers the option of decreasing the volume of the sound on the court relative to commentary provided by analysts. The site boasts that NetMix can change the level of "the crowd, base-line, grunting and ball," as if people care about any but the third.

The program came out days after the head of Wimbledon said he would like to see less grunting in the women's game. Listeners on Thursday, for instance, could adjust the volume of on-court sound in matches featuring two of the loudest grunters on the WTA, Victoria Azarenka and Maria Sharapova.

Robert Brun, the head of audio and music technology for BBC radio told London's Telegraph newspaper:

"Having known for a long time that broadcasters have a problem with balancing the ambient sounds of a sports match with the commentary, we felt we had to develop a tool which put the control back into the hands of the audience.

"The BBC receives lots of complaints from the public regarding sound balance — with many of them wanting the sound of the commentators turned up and the noise for a match turned down. Wimbledon was a clear choice to launch this product for as there are always so many comments about the amount of grunting from the players."

This could be a "be careful what you wish for" situation. Turning down Azarenka's interminable, 95-decibel grunts is a no-brainer. Having to listen to certain broadcasters may not be any better, though.(S)

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