Personal View – What does £50 get us?

What Does £50 a year get us?

That has been my exact words for the last year, and it’s in relation to the Hospital Broadcast Association (HBA).

Over the years, the charity have been members of the HBA
(plus it’s former NAHBO), but in recent times have seen the membership fees hike up to £50 a year.
I first started volunteering with the charity it was about £20 – 30 a year! so why the almost double in price?

Well it’s something I can’t find the answer to.

The HBA is an organisation that represents Hospital Radio across the UK, it has regional reps that are supposed to interact with the stations, encouraging sharing of ideas, information, support and advice, feeding back concerns to the main body of the HBA, there was/is a training sessions, plus the annual conference and awards.

But recent years, the subscription seems to have increased, but the service offered has decreased, a lot. – and this is exactly where my issue is.


Stations where asked to fill out questionnaires as to what the HBA could do to improve some years before, which this data is supposed to shape the way the service is delivered.

In 2015, the HBA undertook a review of it’s self, as it highlighted areas it was struggling in, admitting it hasn’t been operating as well as it should, stating “A full review of the operation and structure of the organisation focusing on what HBA needs deliver to its constituent membership.”

The charity suffered major problems with a Bedside TV provider, I communicated with the HBA to advice to see if there was any legal standing for the charity equivalent of loss of earnings or damage to reputation etc,  through a badly maintained third party system (now removed). I got one answer, which was go to another third party TV company that work with the HBA.
Now the Charity doesn’t run the contracts for the TV’s. It’s the Trust that runs the building who manage it, they had already stated they don’t want a third-party systems that see a charge incurred to patients.
As far as advice goes, it wasn’t exactly helpful.

Following this I attended the HBA annual conference in Newcastle and asked outright, “listening to everything said, and constant talk of restructure, are the HBA fit purpose anymore?”

I got a blunt answer of “yes” and was ignored the rest of the conference.

Feeling my questions remain unanswered, I started asking my fellow volunteers at the Charity if they felt it was value for money, the responses I initially received where interesting; More than half of my own fellow volunteers didn’t know what the HBA are or what they did.

So into 2017, we I asked the charity volunteers again, who felt they didn’t know much about the HBA, so we organised for a rep to come in and explain what the HBA does exactly. – The first visit in years.

Following the talk, some interesting feedback was gathered from the Charity. Some now think we shouldn’t renew as it’s not worth it,  a couple  have signed up to their website as affiliates of our charity.
The remainder are uninterested as there it doesn’t affect how we run.

So why exactly am I disgruntled?

I’ve asked questions, and don’t feel helped at all. I’ve never had a follow up to ask if the issues was resolved or are ongoing.

but then other things annoy me,

  • The Conference – Has a sizeable fee
  • The Awards Gala – Additional fee
  • Training sessions – Has a fee

As far as £50 goes… what did it actually get us?
I’ve established this;

  • A monthly e-newsletter – Freely produced by mailchimp.
  • A Quarterly e-magazine – Funded by advertising (Note this used to be printed and posted, now digital only).
  • Access to a Forum – That you can wait weeks / months for a reply.
  • Apply for grants – Issued three times a year, but can’t recall the last time I heard of one being rewarded.

Mat, why not offer solutions?

Oh easy – shut it down and start again.

  • Reduction in Annual Subscriptions – I would estimate at the moment at least £10,000 is made on subs alone (200 stations x £50 each)  Let’s half the price of that to £25.00. plus have an agreement / contact as to what’s expected from each party – That’s reviewed every few years.
  • Cheaper Conference prices and FREE Training sessions – Conference day pass is about £50 expect something like 200 – 400 people? that’s again another £10+K – The event pays for itself after-all!
  • More interaction with your members – actually asking them what challenges they are confronting. – This will ultimately result in the members of the individual charities interacting with the HBA more. Plus paint a picture of what problems there are.
  • See what vast changes across the NHS are happening, find out what the landscape looks like and what direction is it going.
  • Is it time that Hospital radio, become ‘Health Radio’ and serves a local community, rather than a site…  (Personal note: this should have been done years ago when community radio licences where issued!)
  • Better levels of negotiation at a higher-level (and legal level).
    > Challenge Ofcom to support Health & Hospital Radio – Give HR’s the options to become small scale DAB before the community ones – OR offer solutions to partner up with community and small ILR for local DAB.
    > Challenge PPL & PRS over licences fees.
  • Consider the feasibility to pay people to run the HBA.
    Member Charities are finding it difficult to encourage and retain volunteers and find new trustees.  The HBA at a national level should consider payment (even if part time) to actually run the place.  It’s clearly struggling on Volunteer power alone.  Costs can be covered via grants and commercial partnerships and sponsors – Here an idea the HBA selling Spot Commercials and paying a % to members stations to play it – Could get some national brands and companies interested!!

(If any of the above is done… it’s generally unheard of from the HBA) 


So what does £50 get us? 

At the present, in the current situation – it seems very little.

The organisation as a whole is a good idea, it’s just disappointing it’s not delivering or performing as it should.

 

 

It needs to change and modernise, but not take so long to do so.


All views here are Personal to myself, and are not those of the HBA or any of the members or charities associated.

Hay, how are you? It’s been a while…

There is no timescale or order to my postings (Or my life thinking about it).
But needless to say I’ve been busy!

The new job at LU is going well, can you believe I’ve already done three months, it feel much longer! but I’m enjoying it, everyday is something different! Commuting into inner London has given me a new appreciation of the city, I feel a desire to revisit places. I’m still slightly in awe of what a great city it is.

Sadly I’ve not had nearly as much time to volunteer at Bedrock. Despite my work shifts being shorter than the buses, the commute does take a little slice out of my day. Yet the occasional Sundays I’m off, I do best to get in the studio and do Brunch live, if not, I make sure it’s recorded and ready to go!

I’m considering taking a back seat at Bedrock and debating if I should step down as a Trustee come the Annual General Meeting in 2018. The Charity is fairly stable, the issues we’re currently facing are beyond our control, but we’re communicating with the relevant bodies. My concern is that I don’t necessarily feel supported in our future plans and developing ideas, over this year I’ve been encouraging the rest of the Trustees to embrace their posts and take ownership in how they do their role. We’ve had a history of long serving members carrying more than their own post.  – Nevertheless, I do try and keep things going.

So, how’s your love life? Mine?! … non-existent.
For a laugh, I downloaded tinder, and let a few friends loose on my profile for a laugh, It really doesn’t work as a ‘dating’ tool. (Maybe I’m too picky).
Apart from that, I was talking to an ex for a little while, nothing come of it and I feel like I’m wasting my time, so stopped trying… Back to Tinder then.

Online shopping is the BEST thing on this planet… That’s a #MatFact.
So remember last year I did an EU Road Trip with Lee. When we where in Munich I tried a local German Beer, Hacker-Pshorr and I’ve been craving some, good news Amazon stock it! Now only if I could remember the name of the wine I had in Italy!

This Bus Terminates Here….

I have been driving a London Red Bus for almost two years come September. However, I’m not making it to my two year anniversary… because I am chaining jobs (again), but staying within transport!

I’m actually off to work for London Underground, not as a a driver (yet!) but as station staff, I stumbled across the vacancy on the TfL Linkedin page and thought “why not!”.

Like most jobs i’ve applied for, I had some scepticism as TfL jobs, like many high profile companies, notoriously have thousands of applicants, so it’s a long and competitive process. I applied a few months ago with a small bit of resentment when I got news I was being put on rota for the 174, in the same week I was doing spread-over (split hours) shifts. I remained optimistic, because I have the possibility of progressing and trying for operations roles fulfilling another boyhood dream of playing with a real size train set!

So I applied, a few months back and made it through the various assessments, interviews and finally the medical… and i’m off to play with the railway!

To be honest, I’m not sure if the time was right, there where a few things that interested me with the bus operations such as iBus & Service Control, plus learning a few more routes such plus the rail replacements runs…

When I was rostered for the 174, I  started highlighting problems to our management so they can take our concerns up the chain of command and get the route running right.
Now I have an opportuntiy not be missed to work for the ‘the Tube’ / TfL – Who knows if I would have got another chance?
I admit I have some sadness leaving the Buses, the team at RM made the job worthwhile, It’s left me with a feeling of ambivalance over the whole thing, which is a shame as part of me really wants to celebrate that i’m changing jobs.

I start training in a week, so I can let the excitement develop!

No more ‘This Bus Terminates Here‘. Instead; ‘Mind The Gap‘!

 

Austria: EU Road Trip

So we’re back on the mainland, after playing with the boats, and we’re driving away from Venice, as we’re crossing the SR11 (Bridge?!) from Venice, I notice a very famous train passing by. The Orient Express! Wish I had the time and money to have holidayed on a world famous train, Lee didn’t know what it was sadly.

 

Today was a lot of driving, in fact we where due to spend a very large part of the day on the road, in fact somewhere in the range of 6+ hours, driving.
We agreed while on the boat, that we had done a lot of recent motorway driving, and decided that we would go via the Italian Countryside. and that when we get into Germany we would be doing a lot more motorway… Autobahn driving.

We traveled around the Italian countryside, admiring the towns, villages, vineyards (most of the crop was harvested), Part of our detour from the motorways took us round the foothills of Dolomite mountain. mountains where a good sign for our next country stop. What I hadn’t realised initially is Lee had suggested the detour to visit Ai Pioppi, a human powered playground! We had both heard about it through YouTube.

We arrived to find it was closed as it was classed as the winter period when the park shut. but we still parked up, got snacks from the coolbox and drove on.

We carried on through the mountains, reaching the Austrian boarder.
Initially we planned to stop in Austria for a night, but this would add extra time we didn’t have onto the whole trip. However, we still needed to buy a Vignette to drive on the motorways

Much like Switzerland, Austria was very picture-esque, We had no plan for Austria, apart from driving through it to get to Munich, However we had decided on planning we should take a break in Innsbruck, just to split up our long day of driving. So where better to stop, than half way up a mountain, with views of this;

Innsbruck
Innsbruck

Needless to say, Austria is on my return list. even if I just take pictures like that all day.

The final part of our journey was shorter and took us into the early evening, and it took us across into Germany where we aimed to reach the hotel in Munich.

Italy: EU Road Trip

Now Italy is sort of the half way point on our trip, it’s the furthest point we’re traveling too before heading back towards the UK.

Firstly one notable items about driving in Italy… They LOVE tolls, possibly more than France…
Italy so far has become the most expensive place just to get around.  We had two destinations, Milan and Venice, A few hours after leaving the Swizz boarder and becoming a few Euro lighter in the pocket, we reach Milan…

Milan

Milan is a old feeling city, but famous for being the culture of fashion and design, which explains the abundance of cloths shops, after parking the car a few streets away in a secure attened car park we checked into our nice looking budget(?!) B&B Hotel, It’s comparable to the Premier Inn chain in the UK, just without Lenny Henry….

After ditching the suitcases, we decided to give the car a rest and use public transport, Doing some quick Google’ing I discovered you could download an App for the Milano Transport System ‘ATM’, and purchase a 24 hour ticket for Buses, Trams and the Metro (Underground), It used a QR code that you scanned before entering the Metro system and for other surface transport show the app ticket if requested – Simple, London I hope you’re taking notes!

We had a quick sights trip (quick being the key word here), firstly to Castello Sfozeco, A massive medieval fortress. before jumping on a Tram to see the equally massive cathedral. Next door to the said Milan Cathedral was the GAllera Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the oldest shopping malls in the world, I believe, it’s a very large glass covered shopping Mall, This is where you got a taste of the fashion with all luxury clothing brands Including, but not limited to Mercades, Fararri, Parada along with numerous restaurants of which we decided to enjoy dinner at.

The only thing that ultimately let Milan down was the street vendors, attempting to rip tourists off at every turn, selling selfie sticks, wristbands, scarves, handbags, roses and some silly children’s toys… These con artists were more of these annoying than the people than on London Bridge and Covent Garden put together, They began to get my nerves so much that I didn’t overly enjoy Milan at all.

I was relieved to return to our Hotel and prepare for the next leg of our journey to Venice!

Parma.

Milan to Venice was roughly 3 hour journey, so Lee suggested we check out another section of Italy this time Parma, Home of Ham & Cheese.
This flying visit resulted in a long walk from the carpark to the sort of town center, we saw the Baptistery of Parma, the Cathedral and bought some Parmesan cheese, well it would be rude not to..

Venice

Finally, the ‘furthist’ point of the trip, I booked a hotel on the island of Lido, but didn’t think to pre-book or research the ferry… On the plus side, the car did come to Lido, and it had a 2 night rest… It’s probably thankful to us.

We both agreed as we left the mainland of Euroupe and had sailed across to another island (albeit the same Country) it actually felt we was more ‘on-holiday’ than any other trip.

In Venice boats rule, Lido and the Santa Croce area of Venice are the only places you’ll see cars!

The first night, we arrived late afternoon / early evening so we only wondered around Lido, found food, along with some wonderful Red Wine (Italian Merlot I believe) before going to sleep.
Next day we caught a boat back to the main part of Venice, passenger boats run as regular as buses, there’s loads to pick from. There was much to see in San Marco including a long walk round the islands, we watched the Gondals weaving among the canals, We debated going on one but at €80 for 30 mins this was a bit steep just for us… (If I had been on holiday with a girlfriend, then i’d have a different answer). The public transport / river boat done us fine and for €20 we had a 24 hour pass to use any of the city transport services.
The ticket was like an Oystercard too, simple.

We spent majority of the day in San Marco and ventured across to Murano for lunch, Murano we learned is famous for glass making, the majority of shops selling hand crafted glass items. After lunch and getting lost in Murano then buying Ice Cream we found a boat to take us back to Marco, after another spot of wondering round the maze of walkways we decided to get dinner at a riverside restaurant before catching the boat back to Lido and finding our Hotel.

Where we requested more teabags… Which could have been the most British thing we’ve done this whole trip!

Negativing the ferry back was confusing and fun, The port at Venice had clear markings and a full on ticket barrier and clearly marked lanes.. on Lido you get the barrier and ticket office, but you essentially queue up on the side road next to the ferry entrance!

I was sad we had to leave so soon, but we have more driving ahead of us into Germany!

Switzerland: EU Road Trip

The journey from Luxembourg to Zurich was “Only 3 to 4 hours…”, according to our host as we checked out handing the keys back… In the grand scheme of things that’s not too bad, we did a lot of driving to get to Luxembourg, and we know there was way more ahead of us….

Switzerland, home of Swiss Cheese, Swiss Army Knives, that annoying film sound of music and posh watches…. We eventually rolled up to the border, whereby you’re stopped not for a passport check, but to pay road tax. A Vignette is basically a tax for using the motorways, sort of like a toll for the whole country – Not an issue, for the ammount of milage we’d be covering this would be classed as cheap compared to the french & Italian tolls.

We had another AirBnB booked just outside of Zurich in the suburb of Zollikon, Our host gave us loads of useful information and highly recommended using the public transport. We had drawn similarities to London driving when passing through Zurich, notably the lack of car-parks, most comical (Well to us) was the traffic light sequencing allowing a grand total of 4 cars through (pretty much like sitting at the lights at the A127 Ardligh Green junction).

After sorting the room out, we ventured out to the new city we found ourselves in heading the advice given about the Public Transport system we found a Bus Stop and bought a ticket, the ticket allowed us to travel across the Zurich using any local Bus or Tram for a full 24 Hours.
Buses here are more like low floor coaches, where you can board from any of the 3 doors and the drivers pretty much get on the with driving no assault screens (and they take cash) Plus the on-board information is more detailed.

A key feature of the Zurich is it’s Lake, featuring many small boats (sort of like Westcliff & Chalkwall seafront) and quite a few activities based on the lake, sadly we wasn’t spending enough time to take advantage of everything on offer. But we went of a nice walk enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of this city.

The next morning, we left early to make the journey to Milan, Most of this leg of the journey took us through the picturesque sights of the Swiss Mountains, and it was outstanding to see such natural beauty, but also the marvels of engineering in building roads, houses and railways on the side of a mounting.

We made a short stop for breakfast in a Swiss town of Beckenried, which lay beside a still water lake, despite being in the

Truely breathtaking.

Luxembourg: EU Road Trip

Our first destination on the road trip was Luxembourg, a historic picturesque city (It looked relatively nice on Google Street View) that’s small and amazingly nice.

We decided to spend 2 nights in this country, but we also booked our room through AirBnB. It’s an relatively new concept whereby you can rent out a spare room / apartment / bed for short term stays, usually undercutting most local B&B’s or Hotels. Our booking was an en-suite room, in the hosts basement with it’s own private entrance, located in Leudelange, just outside of Luxembourg City.

The first thing I noticed when wondering the city was how clean it is. The native language is actually Luxembourgish, which takes aspects of French, Flemish and old Anglish (Anglish, being the basis of English) Majority of people we encountered spoke French and where polite with Hello, Goodbye and Thank You being used in abundance (Although I wish I could remember more french from the years I spent learning it in school)

On the full day of exploring Luxembourg we tried the hire bikes (same system as London’s ‘Boris’ Bikes) before deciding to take a Tour Bus to see the true sights of the New & Old city. After getting an better idea of where things where, we decided to drive across to the New city and enjoy the sights again.

I quite enjoyed Luxembourg, if I had more time I would liked to have visited the museums or gone further across the country.

 

 

EURoadTrip

Would you believe I’m 25 years old and I have never been on a holiday abroad. I have never explored another Country ever (Not counting the school trip to France year ago, I choose to forget that experience through choice).

Actually, I know of people who are older than me and have never stepped foot abroad. I am due to have some annual leave late October / Early November and for the best part of a year, myself and Lee had been talking about going on Holiday. Most likely somewhere in Europe as that’s cheaper than going to the USA, New Zealand or somewhere far, far away.

We decided to start bouncing ideas of places we would like to visit, after-all the Europe is a big place.
My one request was to avoid france, I had very little intrest in staying there, plus Lee had already been ealier in the year. So we both agreed the first stop en-route would be Luxemberg.

Venice was chosen as the  the furthest destination and worked out how many days it would take to get there, we used Furkot  to help plan the trip, it works out the days, and forces ‘rests’ into your journey – Clever stuff!
Now with an idea of places we would be recommended to stop, we started reviewing places we perfered.

Luxembourg (avoiding France), Switzerland, Italy, Germany…

Now we had to narrow the list down to actual places en-route, plus with a few extra places thrown in, Lee suggested Czech Republic, so that went in. I discovered Hammberg had the worlds largest model railway (as a child I went to a few Model Railway exhibitions in London with my dad) so my inner child could be amazed.

From here we have a route… a long, long route… averaging 2500 miles… that’s not including driving round towns and the Cities….

Places to stay

This was inevitably going to be awkard, trying to book places that A) Spoke English, of some degree. B) Had Twin rooms (I’m not sharing a bed with Lee… I snore and i’m greedy with the covers (Ladies, i’m your typical bloke when asleep…)). C) Wasn’t too far from the places we wanted to visit…

I suggested we try Air BnB I remember reading about it, and seeing mostly positive outcomes we decided to book a couple of places, along with a few hotels… We have however, decided to only book 50% of the rooms, just in case we change our minds en-route.

 

So now to pack, get money, and go….

Refitting Studios

There is never a dull moment in volunteering, this is quite true at Bedrock, Since our merger with The Jumbo Sound, we’ve had a lot on our plate. I’ve had a team of Trustees to oversee different aspects of the merger  – But the bit I’ve gotten myself most involved in is the studio rebuilds!

It’s fair to say I’ve made quite a few changes over the 10 years I’ve been at Bedrock.
Mostly involving the way the studio operates. With temporary studios, ‘that’ll do’ fixes and the last one ‘functional & practical until the next one’… and now the current one.

Not only is it my favourite studio build I have been involved with – It’s also the best looking!
Of-course I’ve not done it alone, I’ve had Lee working with me on the projects. The studio at Queen’s in Romford is a small rectangle. That’s got awful acoustics, and in all honesty is a bit all over the place, oddly placed plug sockets. A window into the office and a door that doesn’t have an automatic closer (which can be very annoying…).

But this is the Third and FINAL! (take note Lee) studio build for the studio at Queen’s.
It’s got everything I envisaged. It looks professional. It looks tidy & most of all I’m proud of it.

So what’s this new Romford studio box got? 

  • Sonifex S2 mixer (acquired through the Goodmayes (Jumbo) merger);
    This actually created the first problem, the woodwork at Goodmayes was actually too big for the Romford studio. It left very little space to manoeuvre, and the only orintation the desk would go, resulting in the presenter lookin at the window and no room for co-hosts. Which resulted in us buying…
  • A Bespoke Studio Desk.
    Sonifex have a range of furniture for S2 mixer that’s modular, which looked nice, but resulted in limiting the space again, Lee and I looked around and found Broadcast Warehouse also done furniture, but again the suggested ones would limit our space down.
    Sitting in the studio one afternoon, I got the the idea of a droplet shape, resulting in the presenter not directly facing the wall or window, but rather towards the door, with the mixer modules angled appropriately to maximise space.  So we drew the idea out on a whiteboard (because my best ideas are scribbled on these). so Lee measured up, resulting in a Bespoke desk for Romford! – Unique to our studio only!
  • 4 Microphones.
    Another request of mine was to introduce a 4th Mic if we had room, some of our team shows resulted in 2 – 4 people being in the studio at once, and often resulted in two people sharing.
    We’re using B-1 Behringers in the studio (I actually own one of these personally, and I quite enjoy the warmth the mic has)
  • Extra PC’s
    So the presenters in our studio have their Myriad Playout PC, that was actually rebuilt with a rack-able PC case. They also have an ‘Internet PC’ for emails, research, spotify etc…
    We decided to include a second ‘Internet PC’ for the co-hosts to use, as the one for the presenter was extremely far away from the co-hosts. both these actually plug into the desk… but only the presenters one is able to record.
  • Mic Live Light
    Okay this one is cheating a little bit – We already have a Mic Live LED light in the window in our office, Plus we have info-screens with cue lights on… so why the extra one?
    Well we decided this was more of a luxury extra, but would also be in eye-shot of everyone, In the studio or the office. when it’s on… don’t enter! (But you always get someone who does.)
  • Speaker Poles
    This was an afterthought. We realised that with the new position the speakers needed to come down from the walls and be repositioned to be central to the presenter – now in an ideal world I’d love to cealing mount the speakers but that would breach the lease. So we opted for speaker stands, it rises them off the desk & keeps the stationary
QH Studio
Mixers and PC’s just in… more work still to do!

Apart from some of these extra toys, we also repainted the whole room white. Plus a featured green wall, that will have a massive white Bedrock logo on it soon.

The only real problem we’ve encountered is the acoustics, since we dumped all the old panels (that had seen better days) we’ve not really focused on what’s going to replace them.  Foam ‘Egg Box’ panels seem a reasonable idea, but we know people will start to pick at the texture and it will make a mess – I’m opting for flat bevelled edge squares, but the challenge will be trying to mount them onto the walls…

 

What about Goodmayes? 

Well they are getting a new fancy studio too (It’s due to be put together soon (May 2016)).

This studio is receiving the equipment that came out of Queen’s but it’s perfect as the Goodmayes studio is being used less than the Romford one.

  • Sonifex S0
    It’s a fantastic compact mixer & a great workhorse of a desk. – there’s one still sitting at Queen’s in the office production area.
  • New Desk.
    The old one was water damaged, but as mentioned above was too big to fit into Queen’s, we tried to offer it out to other stations. sadly no takers so it’s gone to the local recycling centre.
    The new desk is a fairly standard rectangle but has plenty of room for the mixer and gear.
  • No Mic Live Light.
    Now That’s a Lie! – There are two info screens at Goodmayes that have a Mic Live cue light on them, we debated keeping the old ones, but didn’t like the amount of wires required, so the screens where given the job.
  • PCs?
    Yes, it’s got a Myriad Playout PC, an Internet enabled PC. Plus some other engineering bits.
  • Speaker Poles!
    The old Goodmayes studio had the speakers wall mounted behind the presenter, but again this involved running wires all round the room and we’re avoiding running masses of wire.
    So like Queen’s, speakers are being screwed onto the desk on poles! much neater!Goodmayes was painted up a few months back, plus had some new carpet tiles laid, it’ll also get Logo’d up. Oh and it does have a small green ‘feature wall’… just because we really like green!

The most rewarding bit so far is how ‘impressed’ they are with our studio builds.
Hopefully the programmes that are broadcast from them are just as impressive, we’ve given presenters facilitates – let’s hope they are used. (Fingers crossed)