Broadway may sound a little quieter soon. New York City has just passed a law to ban the use of mobile phones in theatres, effective from April 2003.

From then, use of mobiles during a performance will be illegal and subject to a fine of $50 (£31). Either making or receiving calls constitutes a violation of the law, as does the use of audible texting, pagers or other bleeper. In addition to theatres, the law will also apply to cinemas, concerts, libraries and museums.

New York Councilman Philip Reed who's spearheaded the new law describes it as "a real quality of life issue". But, while there's widespread agreement that mobile usage in such environments is a public nuisance, the law is not universally welcomed. One of its chief opponents has been the city's mayor Michael Bloomberg who believes it is unnecessary and that quietening audiences - be it for mobile phones, chattering or other disruptions - should be an issue for theatre managements.

In a "Stage Rage" Big Debate, 59% of respondents felt that mobile phone use amongst other audience members is now a regular disruption to their theatregoing experience. However, the irritation came a distant fourth to more prosaic offenses such as the rustling of sweet wrappers (voted for 79%), talking and whispering (69%) and arriving late to the show or returning late from the interval (64%).

To read other theatregoers' thoughts on the ban or to post your own, visit the Discussion Forum.

- by Terri Paddock