FOR more than 30 years Chichester Area Talking News (CATN) has been bringing residents with sight problems the latest news from the Observer series.
Now in its 37th year, its volunteers are hoping to reach more people than ever.
Recorded every fortnight, CATN includes articles from the Chichester, Bognor Regis and Midhurst and Petworth editions of the paper.
The programme also includes birthdays and celebrations, village news, sport and sometimes a guest slot with the Observer’s very own Richard Williamson.
It is then sent out on cassette tape, CD, and now memory stick, to up to 400 registered users free of charge.
“Up to this point we have been using audio cassettes and CDs but cassettes are becoming more and more obsolete,” said head of production John Holloway.
To help users adapt to the memory sticks, CATN is providing anyone who switches over with a free, easy-to-use mini boom box, specifically designed for partially-sighted or blind people.
“The quality that goes out, whether on memory sticks or CDs or cassettes, is incredibly high,” said presenter and producer Geoff Farrell.
Users of CATN are referred from social services, 4Sight, St Richard’s and care homes.
Now, however, volunteers are also hoping to reach other residents who may not have heard of the charity.
They are considering offering the recordings to residents who may not be able to read easily for reasons other than sight problems. It may be because they are unable to physically hold a newspaper or because of learning difficulties such as dyslexia.
“We are never really sure whether everybody who could be using the talking newspaper is aware of it,” said Geoff.
“If somebody could use our service they might want to know it is here, it is free and there are lots of other people using it.”
John added: “We are lucky – we have been around for a long time and we have a lot of support from people who subscribe to us and love us. It just seems a shame to not use that and get to more people.”
The charity’s studio is in a small building on the St Richard’s Hospital site.
It includes a studio with four microphones and top-of-the-range recording equipment.
As well as the fortnightly news programmes, CATN also produces a quarterly magazine programme which lasts 75 minutes.
All of this is produced by around 70 volunteers – fulfilling roles from producers and presenters to area volunteers and morning helpers in the office.
A recent extension has also made the site slightly more comfortable for volunteers, with the addition of a toilet and small kitchen.
Speaking about the team, chairman Robbie Burns said: “I just enjoy being involved in an organisation where you get great volunteers and a very appreciative audience.
“When you talk to people they really appreciate what you are doing.”
If you, or someone you know, would like to become a listener you can call 01243 775050 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
When anyone new subscribes to the service they are visited by an area volunteer who explains the service.
All listeners and volunteers are automatically members and there is no subscription charge.
Anyone who would like to make a donation can send a cheque, payable to Chichester Area Talking News, to Chichester Area Talking News, St Richard’s Hospital, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 6SE.