Bedford Talking Newspaper
for the Blind (BDAN)
Registered UK charity no. 802814
Revised: August 2014
Founded in 1978, Bedford and District Audio News (BDAN) is a registered UK charity. It records and distributes free weekly CD's USB sticks* and audio cassettes of local press stories and a quarterly magazine of general interest items, all read in English, for those who cannot see, have a visual impairment or cannot hold a newspaper. The news output is also available, for free, to a wider audience via this website.
BDAN is run by unpaid volunteers and the newspaper area covers roughly a 10-15 mile radius around Bedford in eastern England, United Kingdom. Bedford is about 60 miles north of London.
Even though the news area is relatively small, the free distribution can be to any postal address in the UK. Listeners can also receive news from multiple Talking Newspapers at any one time.
FOUR WAYS TO HEAR BDAN PROGRAMMES
1) On CD for use on any CD player. Your weekly CD arrives in a "Cardboard mailer". Once you have finished with the CD, it and the mailer can be discarded, there is nothing to return. The picture below shows a CD and mailer.
2) On USB stick * - shown below is an easy to operate player with large yellow buttons
and here are two smaller players. The black player shown below is available to listeners on free loan. The other two are available for purchase from BDAN.
Other options are a radio or television with a USB socket, or a Wireless For The Blind radio.
* USB sticks are small digital storage devices, also known as pen, thumb or flash drives. A typical USB stick is shown on the right.
3) On Cassette Tape - Any compact cassette player
4) Online - Streamed or downloaded from this website by clicking on the large yellow button in the middle of the home page from a computer, laptop or other device supporting web access.
BDAN is funded entirely from donations, and the picture below shows committee member Lesley Pitter receiving a donation from Rita Holyoak of the Bedford Brickhill Ladies Group to aid our running costs.
Around 130-140 listeners currently take the free tapes and USB sticks. Most live locally, but as mentioned, others reside further afield - keen to catch up with Bedford's news if they have moved away or have a connection to the town. Generously, Royal Mail does not charge for conveying the tapes, under the Articles For The Blind postal concession.
As well as the weekly tape / stick of news, a quarterly magazine is also produced, featuring local and national items of interest, stories and a What's On guide to local events.
BDAN also produces a newsletter sheet for volunteers and supporters - including information about social and fundraising events.
The small charity is run by a committee that meets each quarter, and is elected at the spring Annual General Meeting (AGM) - to which listeners, volunteers and members of the public and press are most welcome.
Chairmen of BDAN
1978-87 Mr Cyril Humphreys
1987-88 Mr Alan Charge
1988-97 Mr Roy Purser
1997-04 Mrs Eira Grewer
2004-10 Mrs Delia Partridge
2010 Mr Tom Owens
2011- Mr David Mitchell
Current Commitee Positions (as at AGM 2012)
Social Secretary Fundraising
Volunteer Rotas Listener Representatives (two positions)
Behind The Scenes of the Weekly News Edition
With around 130-140 people receiving Bedford and District Audio News cassettes and USB sticks, the process of production and distribution must be organised effectively.
The service currently has around 60 volunteers, most giving just a few hours every five or six weeks. There are many tasks - from collecting sacks of returned wallets (containing cassettes and USB sticks), to sorting these and preparing for the next week's output. Then there is fundraising and committee work, and the task of reading and recording the news.
Volunteers all give their time to ensure that each and every listener receives his or her edition of news on time and in good condition.
Last Week's Edition
Monday morning and the process of producing the weekly Audio News begins. Sacks of returned cassettes and USB memory sticks from the previous week are collected from the Royal Mail sorting office in Bedford. These are taken to BDAN's small studio room close to the town centre. Alternating coloured wallets (with Velcro closures) are used every other week - yellow then black and so forth.
Each audio tape (a standard 60 minute compact cassette - 90 minutes for the Magazine) is taken out of its pouch and wiped with a bulk electromagnet tape eraser. This process involves placing the tape face down and rotating it carefully. Erasing cassettes in this way cleans them for use and ensures optimum sound quality for the next recording. Sticks are automatically erased by the computer during copying later.
Returned cassettes are rewound if necessary, and names checked against the database of current BDAN listeners. A further check is also made to see if a message or letter from the listener has been included. The new pouches are prepared with address labels, and are then are ready for use again. Meanwhile, notices to be read on the next Audio News edition are written, including listener birthdays and a welcome for any new listeners.
Right: Checking-in last week's USB memory sticks, and cassettes keeping the register up-to-date and actioning any messages from listeners (such as a request for a pause in tapes / sticks if he / she plans to be away)
Monday afternoon or early evening and the week's Team Leader (a sort of chief reader) selects items from the Bedford edition of the Bedfordshire Times and Citizen and Bedfordshire on Sunday newspapers. There are six BDAN Team Leaders - responsible for contacting the scheduled readers to ensure that they are able to attend the recording session. And if not, to arrange cover from a small selection of standby helpers.
By about 6.30pm the week's team has assembled at the small basic first floor studio, and the news stories, sport, letters and other articles are divided between the readers (some Team Leaders pre-prepare batches of cuttings). Usually, there are three or four readers - including the Team Leader. The recordist / technician - sits opposite, monitoring the microphone sound levels and operating the mixer controls and computer.
BDAN records the news digitally - this involves the technican / recordist using a computer program to capture the hour's worth of audio before it is finalised and sent to cassette tape copiers at the end of recording. Cassette tapes are produced alongside USB memory sticks. For more information on the introduction of USB sticks, please see the History page of this website.
As the session is not recorded 'as live', the technician / recordist can easily stop proceedings if there is a problem - for example, if a reader makes a mistake or if there is an interruption. However, the recording is not usually edited afterwards.
It is important that volunteers do not introduce any bias to articles, and reflect the piece as written. Letters to the (newspaper) Editor are sometimes read, with a note of differing opinions, as necessary. No censorship of articles takes place. Lengthy reports however, may be edited on paper, if the key points can be extracted. A story may even be reduced to a single paragraph if time is very short.
Items are selected by their importance and relevance, and to provide a balanced mix of the news. Several paragraphs from the the sport pages are often chosen, forming a short summary of the main points. A number of small related or unrelated news articles may also be read together.
Side One - after a brief musical introduction, the Team Leader reads the announcements, notices, listener birthdays, details of new listeners and the times of sunset and sunrise (lighting-up times). The news follows, usually beginning with the main front page story from the Times and Citizen or Bedfordshire on Sunday. Each volunteer then reads his or her articles in turn.
Side Two begins with a brief summary of obituaries, prepared ahead by the Team Leader, and marked in alphabetical order. For brevity, only name, age (if given) and place of recent abode (again, if known) are included on the tape. After the obituaries, general news reports resume.
Copying the Cassettes / USB Memory sticks
When the recording is complete, the technician / recordist begins the duplication process. Post production usually takes between 40-60 minutes.
The recording is finalised on computer and copied to tape and USB sticks at high speed, with the half hour per side completed in just a few minutes. By around 9.00pm, the whole process is usually complete
On Tuesday morning a second team checks each cassette - the start of the first side and the end of the second - to make sure the quality is of a satisfactory standard. USB sticks do not need to be checked, as the computer alerts the recordist to any problems. However, some spot-checking is undertaken, Tapes and sticks are fastened into pre-addressed wallets / pouches (yellow or black depending on the week) and put into mail bags, the sacks of tapes and sticks are taken to the Royal Mail sorting office to continue their journey, free of charge, as previously mentioned, thanks to the Articles For The Blind postal concession.
Left: An industrious post-recording scene - clockwise from middle person in black: copying tapes and memory sticks, spot-checking memory sticks, checking cassettes and on the left, putting tapes and sticks into listeners' wallets
The Journey to Listeners.
Most listeners will receive their cassettes and USB sticks within one to three days, and as BDAN uses the two sets of wallets (yellow and black), listeners can keep their tape / stick for several days before posting it back.
A spare copy of the week's programme is retained by BDAN, and is available should a replacement be required.
The current issue of the Newspaper is available on the BDAN web-site and is changed every Tuesday morning. Click on the large yellow button in the middle of the home page to listen. The file can be streamed or saved using a computer or mobile phone with internet access.
Recordist, Jack Stevens, adjusts the controls with Judy Knudsen, Roy Purser (then Chairman) and Kathleen Dee pictured reading, on 30th August 1991
Image courtesy Bedfordshire Times and Citizen - photographer: Pete Felstead
Explore the BDAN site...
Downloadable output - Hear the current BDAN weekly news recording by clicking on the large yellow button in the middle of the home page.
Interested in getting involved - as a listener or volunteer? Or are you a former member of BDAN? - See the Get Involved page
Interested in more about BDAN's past achievements? visit the History page
Looking to interview someone from BDAN, or book a speaker for your event? See Get Involved
Looking for another Talking Newspaper or local organisation? Try the BDAN Links page