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Sky Deutschland offers sound of silence

Feeve operator lets viewers filter out World Cup noisemakers

BERLIN– Sounding like a maddened swarm of bees, the earsplitting buzz of the vuvuzela has become the plague of the 2010 World Cup. Beloved by South African soccer fans but detested by much of the rest of the world, the plastic horns have made watching World Cup matches an audible challenge.

For pay TV auds in Germany, however, Sky Deutschland has moved to silence the horns.

The feevee operator has introduced a two-channel audio option allowing viewers to either filter out the vuvuzela blare without affecting the commentary or spectator singing or, for those who actually enjoy the buzz, to play the original sound.

Despite complaints from players and fans, World Cup organizers rejected a stadium ban on the plastic horns, which can reach 130 decibels — the equivalent of a pounding jackhammer.

“Broadcasting the games on TV actually makes the acoustic irradiation of the vuvuzelas more intense than it is in the stadiums,” says Carsten Schmidt, Sky Deutschland’s sports chief. Schmidt adds that many Sky viewers have expressed irritation at the noise and complained about not being able to hear the fan singing. “We respect South Africa’s fan culture and the vuvuzela as a symbol of this World Cup, but would like to offer our subscribers an audio option.”

Meanwhile, the BBC says it too may start to filter out vuvuzelas from its World Cup broadcasts after receiving 545 viewer complaints about the incessant drone.

The Beeb has already taken steps to minimize the noise but says it may look at other options to further reduce the volume if the vuvuzelas continue to impact audience enjoyment.

And if that doesn’t work, there are plenty of diligent do-it-yourself advocates on the Internet offering home remedies (if you’re tech-savvy), such as filtering your TV audio through your computer while running the appropriate audio software or fidgeting with your TV’s built-in equalizer.

Then there’s the low-tech nuclear option: the mute button.

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