Talking Newspaper is Sound News

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From Friday, January 6, Sound News, the Milton Keynes Talking Newspaper, will be available to listeners on the internet.

Since 1976 volunteers have been recording every week one hour of news from the local papers and sending cassette tapes to over 200 listeners who have a visual disability. While the service has been much appreciated, there have been huge technological developments in the past 35 years and the committee has had regular discussions about how we might to expand the way in which we provide the weekly news.

One of the key aims of Sound News right from the very start has been to ensure that listeners receive the local news at the same time as their sighted friends and family. So papers are picked up on a Thursday evening, the recording is made, copied on to 200 tapes and all the associated administration is done by around 9.30pm.

Under previous arrangements, before the move of the Royal Mail Mount Farm sorting office, those tapes were in the post on Thursday evening and many listeners in Milton Keynes would receive their tape on Friday morning. Since the sorting office moved to Northampton tapes now generally arrive on Saturday morning.

Staff recently sent a survey to all listeners, asking for their comments on the quality of the service and whether they would be able to receive the news if presented in a different form - for example, a digital recording delivered as an mp3 file via the internet or sent through the post on a returnable memory stick.

It was clear from the response to the survey that the cassette tape remains very popular with listeners and therefore they will continue to deliver the service in that way. At the same time, staff do need to plan for a future when many listeners to Sound News will be using computers, or other digital appliances, and the cassette tape will be very old technology and tape equipment difficult to obtain or repair.

So the committee has come up with a rather neat way forward. The weekly tape will be produced using the current equipment and be copied and despatched on tape in the normal way. The new feature will be that the master tape will be used to produce a digital mp3 file which will then be uploaded to a British Wireless for the Blind server where it can be downloaded by listeners and also accessed via the BWB Sonata equipment for those who have this internet radio device.

In this way Sound News will be able serve their current listeners and also welcome new listeners who wish to receive a digital file. It’s also very likely that the weekly digital file will be available on the internet before the cassette tapes arrive on the doormats.

For further information about the cassette tape and digital service send an email to sound.news@talk21.com