The Magazine on the Internet for Voice-overs
and Commercial Producers
ISSUE No.1 - SEPTEMBER 1995
Welcome to issue one of The Voice - a proposed, quarterly newsletter for voice-overs and audio production centres. This is very much an experimental issue designed to stimulate and test your interest in future newsletters. What do you think? Would you like to submit an idea, a piece of news or gossip, a letter or an article?. The future of this instrument depends on your reaction. New technology is pushing us further apart as a professional body and we need a forum for discussion and interaction. Please Fax your contributions and comments to THE EDITOR on 01633 601206. The future of this newsletter is also dependant on some form of finance, simply to cover costs so, if you can send a small donation (50p or £1 - cheques to S.G. Lyons) or leave a donation in an envelope for me at Trent or 2CR, this would help with material and distribution costs.
OPINIONS AND VIEWS EXPRESSED IN THIS NEWSLETTER
ARE NOT NECESSARILY THOSE OF THE EDITOR.
Equity has circulated their proposals for the new Radio Commercial ratecard, effective from 1st January 1996 if approved by the Equity Council. Equity's draft proposal is for a 3.5% rise, which takes the rate to £13.45 for basic rate stations. One can't help wondering why 50p isn't considered a more rational objective - £13.00 and £18.50 would seem to make more sense than unrounded penny figures? Many minds, though, will be wondering what sort of reaction well get from employers. There always have been anomalies in the system but are we about to face a major problem? Hopefully, all those stations and groups which accepted the last guidelines will follow suit again next year. If last year's one major exception, though, should decide not to budge from it's current rate, then there are likely to be a lot of unhappy voice-overs on the circuit worried about an ever widening differential.
P.S. While we're on rates...one group of ISDN users has successfully negotiated the full per-commercial rate when on-line to JMS - so don't take less for an answer.
Everyone was shocked by news of the closure of three of our Commercial Production centres.
Our thoughts are with all the members of the three teams whose lives are affected by the closures but, especially all those who have lost their jobs in the changes. If anyone knows of any jobs going in the industry, then spare a thought for the Southern Radio team and for Bob at Beacon. Commiserations too, to the people at Chiltem who no longer have the creative process at their fingertips. It is a sad indictment of the future of our industry that creative production, either through the placing of work with external contract houses or through the centralization of group production and the creation of even more satellite copywriters, is moving further and further away from it's heart - the community it should be serving.
GEMINI TO GO ON-LINE BY CHRISTMAS
Tim Fortune at Gemini has managed to bully his MD into coughing up for a Prima from Nicral but, as yet, no news on a unit for sister station Orchard.
ISDN - BT & THE BOTTOM LINE A CAUTIONARY TALE
BT's small business brochure suggests that use of ISDN provides "innovative and cost effective communications solutions" but, sadly, their own maxim, "it's good to talk", doesn't always seem to apply between BT and the customer and within BT itself.
Since going on line in late November 1994 my lines have been out of service on five occasions, three of them within a five week period and, on the last three occasions I have had had cause to complain about the manner in which my faults have been treated. BT's charter allows them until the end of the day following the day in which the fault is reported to repair or restore your service, after which time they are liable to pay you compensation (from a basic £25.00 per line per day from Day 3 onwards to a full blown claim for loss of earnings) but, unfortunately, a great deal of money can be lost in those crucial, first two days of a fault.
My first loss of service, in December 1994, was repaired within the two day margin and gave me no grounds for complaint, although I did lose over £100.00 in earnings. The second fault, in February, ran to a third day and so, with letters from various Commercial Production
Departments to back up my claim, I was able to extract over £300.00 from BT in compensation. The last three faults, however, rode roughshod over all normal practice.
The story is as follows...
10th AUGUST: Discovered fault in the afternoon and reported it. 45 minutes later the lines were back on.
A BT engineer then rang to say that my lines had tested OK and that there was no fault - he suggested my equipment might be at fault (how often have I heard that?). Shortly after this, my lines went out of service again. At some time prior to 5.00 p.m. I rang the engineers again but, as they knock off at 5.00, there was no hope of action that day -1 was eventually told that my fault would be a priority the next morning.
llth AUGUST: Cancelled session with Newcastle and waited for action. No word by 11.30 so rang to request update. Was told that engineers had begun to address the problem and asked to be kept informed. 2.45 'ish still no word from BT. Rang to request update. Cancelled sessions with three other producers. 3.30 Left to access another ISDN facility in Cardiff in an attempt to save a really important booking. 3.40 BT engineer calls my mobile to say me lines are back on. He informs me that, according to the screen log, we were rung early that morning to say that the lines had tested OK. Infuriating or what?
1] Whatever tests BT were using were clearly inadequate to register the fault or the engineer was incompetent.
2] BT's own procedures for customer communication were not followed.
3] As all my calls to request an update would also have appeared on the log someone should have put two and two together and realized that the lines were still out of service.
£252.00 on Day 2 of the fault.
22nd AUGUST: Reported fault early in the morning. 10.30 Engineer who happens to be on site at my exchange looks at the problem. Engineer discovers faulty card in my box but cannot restore the lines as the only spare is already in use. Engineer has to travel seven miles each way to fetch further spare (and have lunch?)- 1.30 Lines are restored. Engineer tells me that had a second spare been available the repair could have been effected by 11.00. 3.30 Discovered a Norman Collier type fault on the lines - segments of every sentence disappearing! 4.00 BT engineer rings to suggest that my equipment is faulty (where have I heard that before?) and threatens a charge if they can find no fault. He says a home visit is necessary but, hey it's nearly going home time, noone's going to call today are they!
23rd AUGUST: Mid to late morning I've heard nothing and ring to request an ETA of the engineer - I'm told mat morning. After lunch I ring ask where the engineer is - I'm told he'll attend when available. 3.40 Engineer appears - within five minutes he has verified that the fault is on BT's side of the operation. - he goes to exchange to search for the fault. 4.40 He's back - left a book here - he's found the fault but it's someone else's job to fix it and - guess what - yes, it's nearly home time so nothing will be done that day!
24th AUGUST : Midday: Lines restored.
1] Insufficient spares on site to service customer needs fairly.
2] Inadequate or incompetent diagnostics and repair procedure. The secondary, intermittent fault should have been detected and eliminated at the time of the first repair.
3] 23 hours between agreeing a home visit and the arrival of the engineer is not a reasonable service for business customers.
£153.00 in Day l & 2
£304.00 in Day 3
N.B. - Interim - Takes out Total Care Contract with Bt - now guaranteed services of engineer within four hours - day or night! That'll show them.
12th SEPTEMBER : 6.30 p.m. Return home having been out all day. Discover fault and check my equipment. 6.55 Ring operator - proudly announce participation in Total Care Contract and request engineer. Engineer says "Right, we'll get on to it and someone will call you back".
13th SEPTEMBER: 12.15 p.m. Nothing from BT (over seventeen
hours later! Good old Total Care). Lines finally restored after a further call from my wife and from OFTEL.
1] Total breach of contract. Procedures simply not followed.
I involved OFTEL (in my case The Welsh Advisory Committee on Telecommunications) during a billing dispute with BT in June, this year. They have proved a useful ally in fighting BT's inadequacies. You must stick to your guns, though, if you do have a complaint.
BT saw fit to ignore my letters of complaint of 12, 22 and 23 of August and of 13th September but, eventually, I was able to get hold of the man who was supposed to be dealing with my complaints.
In addition to the complaints of negligence, as indicated in the "conclusions" above, I had raised technical questions with regard to the adequacy of the ISDN Exchange software for our particular use of the lines and to the possibility that one of the other ISDN users sharing the exchange box and card could be tripping the line.
Happily, during the last week, BT have made a fall response to me. They have accepted my claims of inadequate service and have agreed (as a gesture of goodwill - because their charter doesn't cover it) to credit my accounts with the £405.00 lost within the two day margin during faults three and four and this without prejudice to my claim, within the charter, for the £304.00 lost on 24th August. They have also agreed to isolate my lines in the exchange, allowing me sole use of certain exchange equipment and to bring forward the major, national software update currently being rolled out in the UK (they tell me the new software is more resilient and has improved diagnostics).
I feel that I have achieved satisfaction from BT in the sense that I have resolved this particular batch of problems but, in the long term, I am far from convinced that BT are capable of providing a coherent and adequately supported service to customers like ourselves. The revelation that one BT ISDN engineer's total training involved reading his test-kit manual over lunch in the canteen and that, amongst his colleagues, the four levels of customer care were known as Total Care, Prompt Care, Regular
Care and Don't Care has done little to dissuade me from my cautious viewpoint.
My advice would be to carefully log all times of calls and responses during any period of fault or trouble and not to waste time complaining to local or departmentalised staff. Take your complaints direct to Customer Relations at Customer Network Services and put everything in writing. Also, if things aren't happening fast enough for your liking, contact your local Oftel (or equivalent) and ask for their help. The fact that I have achieved a total of over £700.00 in compensation and an improved service shows what can be achieved- Sadly, though, in BT's world, you have to go to hell and back to have any hope of getting
TOTAL CARE is available through normal BT sales numbers and costs about £8.50 a quarter for ISDN2. It is supposed to guarantee the services of an engineer (not necessarily restoration of lines) within four hours, day or night.
Which popular TV Quiz Show has the credit...
"Featuring the voice of Nick Jackson"
Mystery prize to 1st correct entry received.
An update of Metro Radio's "Broadcast ISDN User Guide and Directory" is now available. Price £20.00. Cheques to "Metro Radio" c/o lan Britton at Metro.
THE CONFESSIONS OF A DIGITAL STRIPPER
ONIY GROWN UPS DO DAT DON'T DAY?
By Tony Aitken
Digital Audio Tape Recorders have been around for a while and they might have gone the way of Eight Tracks and the Sony Betamax Video system were it not for the fact that that they do one thing really well, they record audio onto tape digitally! What this means is that you can store music, speech or whatever and, when you replay it, it sounds great with no hiss or lack of quality, no matter how many times you bounce it around. The tapes are neat too.
So, for the likes of Musos, Voice-overs, Jingle Producers or anyone into sound production, DATs are fab. The sample rate of 44:1 is the same as the standard ISDN rate and also that of CDs. And there lies the problem.
You see the grown ups got worried that everybody would start copying CDs and such onto DAT and then run off loads of copies for Car Boot sales, School Bazaars and East Finchley Young Conservatives Coffee Mornings, thereby doing Sting, Eric and Phil out of another million quid or so in royalties. So they got an engineer type with sweaty palms, a dodgy haircut and open toed sandals to invent..... (Cue Dramatic Stab).....SCMS
Serial Copy Management System, basically, is a signal which stops you making a digital copy from DAT to DAT, Trouble is, if you record your own voice on a DAT recorder with SCMS and then try to copy that DAT to another DAT with SCMS, you can't, even though it's your voice, your copyright, your business - if it's SCMS it's NCD - no can do!
Of course the grown ups made sure that it's only the so called "domestic" DAT recorders that have SCMS and, of course, these are the machines we buy for a mere £500.00 or so. The professional DAT machines with SCMS defeat tend to be upwards of a grand. Grown ups only!
The good news is that if you can only afford a second-hand Sony DTC 690 or 750 or whatever, there is a fine piece of kit available called an SCMS Stripper. It uses the Optical or Coaxial input and output between two machines and, very cleverly, removes the Code. It runs off a PP9 battery, is manufactured by Digicon, and is available from Soho Soundhouse Ltd T/A Turnkey, 114-116 Charing Cross Road, London WC2 ODT. Tel. 0171 379 5148. The cost? Just £129.00 plus VAT.
INDUSTRY MEETS ART!
I recently voiced a series of links for a textile show - a fashion meets cloth sort of affair. I was doing fine until the link where the art director or creative director of the agency concerned had been unavoidably sucked into a French approach - France after all being the home of haute couture. The subject matter was a material called "active fabric" and, in some blinding flash of genius, more blind than bright, this creative God had opted to begin the link with "Fabrique active"- Unfortunately for the pen wielding God, the French for fabric is certainly not Fabrique. What the deity had invented was a fabric called "busy factory"! Ed.
ISDN - ANALOGUE ADAPTER
A Belfast firm has produced a small adapter which allows use of analogue equipment on ISDN2 lines. I currently have a Fax machine on one line and a second phone on my other Isdn line, making cost effective use of my £84 a quarter line rental. The box, retailing at £225.00 is available from Digital Engineering in Belfast. Contact Mr Aubrey Sayers on 01232 840004.
Most recent to succumb to ISDN include Dominica Warburton, Tanya Rich, Dan Straus and Pete Twist....
Congrats to Caroline @ BRMB - off to NYC to present Film Review for CH4 from October.....
More congrats to Simon @ Chiltem - home to Manchester and big things at Alfa Sound....
Hearty congrats even to Paul Seed - from GWR/2CR to Meridian TV....
And yet more congrats to Chris and Fenella Kent on the arrival of young Cameron...
With young'uns in mind - YVO's are on the up! Rumours are that Brian Savin's son is becoming a regular. Henrietta Aitken, at 13, is earning a bob or two and, of course, the Editor has both Sarah (15) and Sam (12) treading the digital boards whenever possible.
Which SW London VO was recently heard musing..."Of course, I always vote Labour but I still wish I'd bought shares in Nicral a couple of years ago...".
Publisher & Editor
Stephen Lyons, Cwmcaddon, Ochrwyth, Risca, South Wales NP11 6EL
No.7 June '96|
No.8 Sept '96|
No.9 Dec '96|
No.10 April '97|
No.11 May '97|
No.12 July '97|
No.13 Sept '97|
No.14 Xmas '97|