The Right to Quiet Society, with chapters in Vancouver and Victoria, is issuing its members with cards to be left with the management as a way of complaining about unwanted music or other audio. "I dislike being forced to listen to music when I don't want to," says one of the cards. "If you turn it off I will gladly return."
Peter Donnelly, a Victoria director of the society, says the protest is meant to draw attention to the inescapability of piped music, radio, and television in modern society.
"Owners and staff justify forcing music on us by saying most people like it," says Donnelly. "But that argument ignores the right of individuals to make their own choices. Most people like coffee, but the greeter at Wal-Mart doesn't force you to drink a cup before letting you shop in the store."
The society points out that audio is heard not just in shops, malls, and restaurants but in doctors' and dentists' clinics, banks, recreation centers, airports, museums, and indeed almost every place open to the public, as well as in offices and other workplaces. Although the society has also printed thank-you cards to be left at quiet establishments, it doesn't expect to pass out many of those.
"Apart from the question of rights, we're concerned about stimulus addiction," says Donnelly, who compares audio to a drug. "Young people are being taught to equate silence with boredom. Music - preferably loud - is seen as a necessary part of almost every activity."
The campaign against audio in public places originated with a British organization called Pipedown, which claims some success. They helped get piped music out of Gatwick Airport after a survey showed that 81 percent of people didn't even notice it, but of those who did, the majority disliked it. Pipedown also organized a letter-writing campaign that was instrumental in keeping background music out of Britain's largest supermarket chain.
One of Pipedown's goals is to preserve the "quiet pub" where patrons can converse without the competition of amplified sound. Right to Quiet fears that the music-free pub may already be extinct in Canada. Victoria's last remaining specimen, the Snug at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel, has now introduced both piped music and television.
More recently the Pipedown campaign has spread to Toronto, where the Citizens' Coalition Against Noise has begun distributing cards proclaiming "Your loud music drove me out!"
Audio is often put in commercial establishments for marketing reasons. But a month-long German study showed that the presence or absence of piped music in a department store had absolutely no impact on sales.
The announcement of the B.C. campaign coincides with International Noise Awareness Day, April 30. Right to Quiet is asking commercial establishments everywhere to turn off the audio between 2 and 2:30 p.m. on that day so that customers can experience a quieter environment.
For more information:
Hans Schmid 604 222-0207