A Brief History

Many years of organising sport for the disabled and promoting golf for the blind led to Mrs Eileen Brown, of West Wittering, starting Chichester Area Talking News for the visually impaired.

In 1975 she was helping with a class at Goodwood for blind golfers when one of her pupils told her of the newly-launched Talking News at Portsmouth. She liked the idea of recording local news on to cassette tapes to help blind people who could not read the local paper themselves. By the end of the year she had the Chichester organisation up and running.

The first one-hour edition was produced on December 5, 1975 – recorded on borrowed equipment at the Hospital Radio studio at St Richard's, Chichester, followed by a dash to Portsmouth Talking News to use its duplicating machine to copy cassette tapes for the first 42 listeners.

Much has happened since then and on August 28 2014 CATN recorded edition No 1,000 on its own top-quality computerised recording and copying equipment from its own purpose-built two-room studio in the grounds of St Richard's Hospital. About 500 copies of each edition, now on CDs and memory sticks, are produced on fast-speed copiers and sent post free to listeners in the Chichester, Bognor Regis, Midhurst and Petworth areas.

All this has been achieved through regular fund-raising ventures, legacies, and generous donations from listeners, friends, charities and companies. Above all, the success of Chichester Area Talking News has been made possible by a talented, dedicated and enthusiastic band of 90 volunteers.

Three production teams, including producers, readers, contributors, presenters and technical engineers, are responsible for recording each fortnight up to 50 news items and general information taken from the three editions of the local Observer newspaper. Then there is the copying section, a rota of helpers to check the post and returned self-addressed wallets each day, an administration team responsible for all listeners, area representatives to look after new listeners, and, of course, a strong committee.

In addition, CATN also produces a quarterly magazine, called INSIGHT, with articles, interviews, interesting features and poems covering a wide variety of subjects. Local supporters and contributors have recorded a total of more than 1,200 separate pieces.

The whole service is entirely free to blind and partially sighted people as well as to any physically disabled person who is unable to hold a newspaper. We also send the programme to listeners who have moved to other parts of the country to be with family.

On the social side, all volunteers meet once a year for a Team Supper and in August, listeners are invited to a Sunday lunch.

CATN prides itself on setting and maintaining high standards and keeping to the forefront of new technology. This has been recognised in the past in an annual national competition for talking newspapers when our news programmes have been winners once, runners-up once and finalists five times, and our magazine has been the best in the country three times, runners-up four times and finalists twice.