Marks and Spencer has finished its ‘trialling’ of piped music in 35 stores around the UK. What happens next – whether it reinstates piped music or sticks to its quiet policy – is chiefly up to us. We need to keep protesting to its head office and in local branches. Its CEO is Steve Rowe firstname.lastname@example.org
A person unable to walk is clearly and visibly disabled. Someone who is blind is equally clearly disabled. But people afflicted by whole range of invisible disabilities – from tinnitus to GAD (general anxiety disorder), from misophonia and dystonia to autism, from presbycusis to hyperacusis to ME – often do not appear disabled. Yet in important ways they are. For such people piped music is no mere irritant but a crippling torment. This applies also to those with general hearing problems (one in six of the population, according to Action on Hearing Loss). All these people in effect suffer from an Invisible Disability. And almost nothing is being done for them. Recent moves to provide the odd Quiet Hour by ASDA and Morrisons are still little more than tokenism. Many organisations, from banks to hospitals to restaurants, are arguably breaking existing law.
According to the Department for Work and Pensions, the Equality Act of 2010 “requires service providers to make a reasonable adjustment for disabled people to make sure that they are not places at a substantial disadvantage compared to non-disabled people. This may include such actions are accommodating requests for communications to be conducted in a particular format. A failure by a service provider to make reasonable adjustment for a disabled person could amount to direct disability discrimination under the Act. (My italics.) What is ‘reasonable’ will vary from one situation to another because of factors such as the practicality of making the adjustment, the cost of the adjustment and the resources available to different providers.”
As the cost of adjusting – i.e. turning off – piped music is almost nil, and it is very easy, there seems no valid reason why all organisations should not be expected to turn off their piped music when requested to do so. Those who fail to do so are guilty of discrimination.
The DWP adds: “If a person feels they have been discriminated against, the Equality Advisory and Support Service (EASS) provides free bespoke advice and in depth support to individuals with discrimination concerns.” The EASS can be contacted: email@example.com or Freephone 0808 800 0082 or FREEPOST EASS HELPLINE FPN 6521
The DWP concludes: “The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has a monitoring and enforcement role in relation to the Equality Act 2010. It has a power to enforce a breach of any of the Act’s provisions, including the disability discrimination provisions, and to challenge organisations where required.”
Any individuals who fall into one of the ‘invisibly disabled’ categories ought to challenge places with piped music, utilising this and other information. Do tell Pipedown of your experiences – setbacks as well as victories – so that we can collate information and approach the Department of Health and the Noise Team at DEFRA with our findings.
(Many thanks to Anne Brown who winkled out this information and suggested the phrase.)
Piped music is a global problem but one best dealt with nationally, even locally. Each country has specific problems.
Katie, who lives in Toronto, plans to start a Canadian branch of Pipedown. If you live in Canada – or even just across the border in the USA – do contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
It is very early days yet but there should be a Pipedown Canada website up soon.
Stevan Hezseltine, one of our most eloquent and energetic members, is starting a local group around Carshalton Beeches and north Surrey. He welcomes supporters. If interested, ring him on 020 8642 6388. (He prefers lively conversation on the phone to the deadness of email.) Whatever happens at his meetings, they are most unlikely to be dull!
Morrisons, the supermarket chain, is introducing a Quiet Hour every Saturday morning. Its 439 UK stores will turn off their piped music, dim lights, avoid using the tannoy and turn down check-out beeps from 09:00 to 10:00. Morrisons is the first major supermarket chain to roll out the scheme to all stores nationwide.
The National Autistic Society called it a ‘step in the right direction’. It is indeed only a step because, although Morrison’s initiative is welcome, one hour per week of quiet shopping is not nearly enough! Nor are the estimated nearly 700,000 people (1% of the nation) with autism the only ones who find piped music deeply upsetting. The 15% of the population with hearing problems – which can include everything from tinnitus, presbycusis and misphonia to moderate deafness – also detest piped music. So of course do many people with perfect hearing.
Other chains are considering following suit. Asda said a number of its supermarkets across the country already worked with local groups to run quiet hours on a regular basis. It added it was working with specialist charity groups to ensure its stores were inclusive for all.
Tesco said it was not planning on rolling out the initiative nationwide, but store managers were welcome to introduce it if they felt it appropriate – as one store in Alloa, Clackmannanshire, did last year. And Sainsbury’s said more than 600 of its stores took part in the National Autistic Society’s Autism Hour in October last year and will be doing so again this year. In three of its Liverpool-based stores, where staff have received training, parents can request a number of store modifications when they begin their shopping trip, it added.
All such moves should be applauded and the chains concerned urged to extend their Quiet Hours greatly. Write to David Potts, CEO of Morrisons, congratulating him and urging him to extend the scheme to other days/times of the week. email@example.com
A recurrent complaint about otherwise excellent television documentaries is their intrusive, often inappropriate music. (For some reason this is particularly bad on wildlife programmes but it mars many other documentaries too). For years the relevant authorities, especially at the BBC, have shrugged off complaints with bland or irrelevant comments (such as suggesting you use subtitles), leaving frustrated viewers having either to mute the programme or to turn it off .
NB All music, along with other sounds including ‘natural’ noises, is dubbed in later.
Now, news arrives that the Red Button on the remote control can be used to mute the commentary. If it can be used to mute commentaries, it can surely be used to mute music too, something Pipedown has long urged. While this may require further adjustments, it cannot be technically impossible.
Yet the BBC does not want to know! Its management prefers to ignore the fact that many of its viewers are likely to be over 50, and thus annoyed by piped music of any sort.
Complain via the BBC website firstname.lastname@example.org”
Quiet Corners, which lists muzak-free pubs, hotels, restaurants, shops etc has been rejigged by our heroically indefatigable hon webmaster Chris Chinnery. It is now possible to type in your location and see what tranquil places have been suggested (by members) within 10, 25 or 50 miles. At present this revamp is not quite complete but it soon will be. Ultimately it should be possible also to download an app to your mobile. Seehttps://quietcorners.org.uk
The Coop supermarket chain has won the wooden spoon of being voted the worst offender for piped music. Although the chain is not everyone’s choice of shop, it is often the only place that the most vulnerable in society – those who cannot drive for whatever reason, for example – find they have to do their shopping. It is also a chain that loudly proclaims its ethical ideals. So whether or not you shop there regularly, write in protest to its CEO Steve Murrells email@example.com
(NB: Not every branch of the Co-op is controlled by the London HQ. The East Anglia and Midlands branches have some autonomy, so it is wise to check the status of a branch before making a protest.)
The Nationwide Building Society, which until recently prided itself on not having piped music, is now introducing it, doubtless misled by the mendacious propaganda of the piped music industry. Email www.nationwide.co.uk/support/contact-us/make-a-complaint or by post to The Complaints Team, Nationwide Building Society NW 2020, Swindon SN38 1NW As the Nationwide is still converting once pleasant branches to muzac-filled places of torment, it is well worth writing NOW.
In the USA the Ann Arbor, Michigan group, with its fine new website, has been getting noticed in the local and national media. See http://quietannarbor.org
Meanwhile in London Carol Caplan has held the first meeting of Pipedown London. She is planning to leaflet concert-goers at the Proms Season at the Albert Hall this summer, realising that lovers of real music freely chosen are among those most likely to hate the unwanted piped sort. Do support her by offering to help leaflet on some evenings – this should only take at most 30 minutes. Or make other suggestions. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
In Germany Lauchsprecheraus! is now under new guidance and continues to combat piped music in Germany. See pipedown.de/
The address for Pipedown UK’s HQ remains email@example.com