Saturday, 31 January 2009

News International Rates Slashed

People ask me if I'm still pitching my news stories and photos to newspapers and I have to tell them I still do but not so much as I was. Apart from that I'm busy with my degree course and a job in the arts, it is because even if I got one 'hit' a week, it would be economically unsustainable. It would be more lucrative being a publicist placing stories in the media paid for by the subject and not the publisher.

All the regional media companies publishing in Suffolk have said to me at some time it is their policy not to pay for freelance contributions. They cannot repay the time and effort involved in finding and reporting stories in a rural area and they can depend on legions of hobby writers glad to see their name in print or tranches of press releases for their feature stories (and their quality reflects that).

As I have practically no hope of regular employment as a journalist, and if I am going to get nothing for the stories I find as a freelancer, I might as well blog them and give them away on my own terms and only wish I could sue the bastards when they lift them without attribution.

News International have recently written to freelance contributors to advise them of new rates for their stories and pictures. The rates now are hardly any different to the fees paid in the 1970's and 80's which in real terms is 50% less.

I haven't seen the rate card as I haven't been a contributor lately but this is from the Press Gazette:

Revised Sun freelance rates 'lowest on Fleet Street'

30 January 2009

Dominic Ponsford

The Sun and The Times are to cut the freelance rates paid for stories and pictures to levels condemned as "completely unacceptable" by the National Association of News and Picture Agencies.

The move follows a review of operations which could also see widespread cuts to staff journalists across
News International – especially among production staff, according to sources at Wapping.

News of the cuts, which take effect on 9 February, comes days after Sun editor Rebekah Wade used the annual Cudlipp Lecture to insist that investment in journalism was the best way for the publishers to survive the recession.

One source at the National Union of Journalists said the union had heard that the outside consultants reviewing operations at News International had recommended that up to 10 per cent of journalists, around 200, could be cut.

But another source close to NI said this was wide of the mark - and that as well as efficiencies, NI was also making significant investment in staff at present.

Sun deputy managing editor Richard Barun has informed news agencies of the cuts to rates in a letter in which he insists that The Sun remains the "the biggest overall payer in the business".
He said: "I'm please to say that The Sun will continue to pay more than any of our rivals for great exclusive words and pictures."

The new rates are: £20 for a one or two paragraph story; £35 for three to five paragraphs; £50 for six to eight paragraphs and £70 for nine paragraphs.

The rates for small, medium and large page-lead stories are £100, £110 and £135 respectively.
The day rate for commissioned work is £110 and the rate for a page lead in the showbiz section Bizarre is £600.

Napa treasurer Chris Johnson, from Mercury Press agency, said: "They are shaving £5 and £10 off rates that were set in 1993 – they are the lowest rates on Fleet Street."
The minimum rate for a picture, of up to two square inches, has been set at £70 to £75, rising to £100 for six square inches, £130 for up to 30 square inches and £168 for 30 to 56 square inches.

Johnson said: "People won't be able to supply pictures at these rates – many agencies already set a minimum fee which is higher than this."

The Times has cut its minimum rate for photos from £90 to £54 and cut the rate for photos used at 11 to 25 square inches from £130 to £90.

This contrasts with minimum rates for live news photos of £165 paid by Express Newspapers and the Daily Mirror.

News of the World has issued rate card fees of £20 for a one-paragaph story, £35 for two to three paragraphs and £50 for four to five paragraphs.

These are also believed to be lower than those previously charged by agencies. The rate paid for a page lead is £450 to £700.

Napa has called emergency meeting for next Wednesday to discuss the rate cuts.
Johnson told Press Gazette: "Reducing rates would be a real own goal for News International since it would hand a huge advantage to its rivals, whose rates are somewhat more realistic.
"I've been inundated with calls and emails from irate Napa members. We will be seeking talks with NI in the hope that we can prevent this drama turning into a crisis."

A News International spokesman was not available for comment at time of writing.

Not only are rates pitiful but nowadays newspapers forbid freelancers from sending invoices and you have to wait for the newspapers to pay up on their 'self-billing' system and rely on their rights logging accuracy to do that properly.

My own experience is, and from the number of complaints I read on press photographer and journalist forums, that system is deeply flawed and widely abused as well.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Barsham Farmers Market Closing Down

The local paper has reported that this long running farmers market is closing down. Thankfully not because of a lack of interest but rather more a victim of its own success. It got to be too much work for its hosts who want to concentrate on farming first. (The Archers' writers please take note).

Although I didn't go very often as Barsham was a bit out of the way for me, I thought this market on the last Saturday of every month was one of the best in the area. The model railway club used to show its layouts to keep the children entertained whilst the adults got down to the serious business of squeezing veg.

Although I am generally against supermarkets, the news that Saxmundham's Somerfield is to become a Waitrose pleases me as I see it would increase the appeal of the town to second homers and holidaymakers. However, the thought of yet another Tesco in Halesworth appalls me. I hope someone steps into the breach very soon as Barsham was a viable alternative. Perhaps we could have this market in Halesworth (alternating with the Holton Farmers Market on the second Saturday of every month) or there's a couple of sites nearby I think that would be ideal for small market like the empty National station I'm always passing on London Road on the way into Beccles, just before the turning everyone took to get to Barsham anyway. A farmers market there would then put it in reach of public transport and make it a lot more sustainable in terms of carbon footprint of all its customers.

View Larger Map

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Death on the A12 at Blythburgh

UPDATE 21/2/08 another fatal crash at Wangford.
UPDATE 14/2/09 yet another crash at Blythburgh. Thankfully not a fatality this time.

Another fatality at Blythburgh and the Henham turn-off for Southwold has been reported today. Visitors to Latitude watch out, this junction is a notorious blackspot.

When will it stop? My memory recalls about one serious accident at this junction per year but it is next to impossible to locate real figures. Perhaps there should be a national database to identify blackspots like the USA has.

I suspect there is one for the UK in some computer but the public can't access it without a lot of paperwork. It always takes an outcry to do something about it.

I recall in December 2002 going to a heated meeting in Saxmundham Town Hall (see below) when the civil engineering consultants Faber Maunsell (then Oscar Faber) were reviewing improvments to the A12 in the AONB that was attended by representatives of every parish council. Here lights at Darsham were demanded as well a bridge or pedestrian crossing at Yoxford and a host of other worthy measures. The report later concluded:

"Previous route condition studies along the corridor have concluded that there are a number of local accident clusters and local junction problems, but that these are not exceptionally severe in comparison with other parts of Suffolk."

These lights were finally erected in December 2008 after two people, both community-active pensioners, died in a road accident when crossing the A12 at Darsham two years before in December 2006.

Gerald and Henny McDonald were killed in a collision with a car when walking from the train platforms to the station's car park on the other side of the road at a level crossing. An inquest in July 2008 heard that having no lights made this crossing a dangerous place for pedestrians.

A cruel irony is the case of a grandmother, Vera Clark who was killed crossing the very road she campaigned for safety improvements on.

Residents of Blythburgh though have taken the matter into their own hands with a police backed
initative to cut speeding.

The Lowestoft Journal, an Archant newspaper, used to have a campaign to improve the A12 but lately the website has been a blank.

These are the 'A12 at Blythburgh' accident stories still available from the EADT website:

Concern for rising road deaths (with statistics)

Crash at Blythburgh after concert: Teenagers Claire Stoddart, 18, her sister Jennifer, 15, and their friend Carla Took, 18, plus Simon Bonner, 40, and Kim Abbott, 41, died after two cars crashed head on the A12 at Blythburgh in July 2006

After digging in my files, I found the following text files I'd saved from 2002


Suffolk County Council (SCC) is working with consultants, Oscar Faber, to develop a route strategy for the improvement of the A12 corridor between Ipswich and Lowestoft. The project team are identifying problems and issues and exploring possible solutions.
Please print off and complete this questionare to give us your views about the A12 corridor. (dead link)


The A12 between Ipswich and Lowestoft is an important route serving the eastern fringe of Suffolk. Since the 1 June 2001, responsibility for the operation and management of this section of the A12 lies with SCC. Oscar Faber was commissioned to develop an action plan for the A12, designed to meet the needs of local people, business and visitors. This project is being carried out in support of the aims of the Local Transport Plan. Principal objectives are to deliver solutions for:

* Greater use of sustainable travel options. * Improved environmental conditions. * Better travel safety. A key outcome of the work will be to prioritise resources so that the most cost effective solutions for improving the route are implemented.


* The A12 between Ipswich - Lowestoft is part of the primary route network serving local and regional needs. * The section being studied runs in a generally south-north direction from the A14 at Seven Hills, near Ipswich to Lowestoft. * The A12 has been improved in a piecemeal manner over the past 40 years resulting in a variety of widths and alignment standards. * Traffic flows vary along the route. * The route bypasses several communities including east Ipswich, Martlesham, Woodbridge, Wickham Market, Ufford, Saxmundham and Wangford. * It passes through several other communities and serves significant amounts of ribbon development, that front the road, as well as providing numerous connections to adjacent small towns and villages. * First Eastern Counties bus company runs a limited stop service between Ipswich and Lowestoft and other village bus services use parts of the route * Anglia Railways operates the East Suffolk Rail Line that runs between Ipswich and Lowestoft; the line is mostly single track, has a maximum speed of 55mph and is slower in places due to locally operated level crossings.


* Approximately 26,000 vehicles per day are carried along the route in the south and 14,000 in the north. Generally it operates without major delays. * There were 403 accidents involving injury to road users during a five year period to September 2001 - of these injury accidents, 76 were serious; 9 were fatal. * At sites where there is a history of accidents, safety improvement schemes will be carried out. * There are no bypass improvements programmed for the A12 (between Ipswich & Lowestoft) but there is funding available to improve the route to make the road safer, more efficient and, improve the environment. * Approximately 500,000 single passenger journeys are made on the East Suffolk train line each year. * The Rural Bus Fund has funded an hourly service on the Ipswich to Leiston loop (Service 80 + 81).
In initial consultations people have already said: * Some traffic travels too fast along local roads * Driving along the A12 is dangerous * The A12 is an important access route for the area * It is hard to turn on/off at some junctions * Things should be done to preserve the rural nature of the area * There are places where it is unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists * It is an easy road to drive along * More bus services are needed. * More should be done to encourage train travel.


The consultation process within the overall study seeks to understand, identify and prioritise the needs and preferences of local residents, businesses, users of the route and other stakeholders with an interest in the study area. This involves holding group discussions, interviews, conducting surveys and public exhibitions.

By completing the questionaire you will contribute to a project that affects your community and, you can enter a prize draw to win two first class return train tickets from any station on Anglia railways trains to London!

* Please print out the questionnaire (dead link)

* Answer the questions * Place the completed questionnaire in an envelope and send to-MARKET RESEARCH

* Return by Friday 22nd March 2002 (or anytime until June according to the PR I phoned.)


A series of public exhibitions will be held to display the results of the study and consultation. Representatives from Oscar Faber and the County Council will be present to answer questions and listen to ideas. A questionnaire will be available to complete. Following the exhibitions, the route plan will be developed.

Please come along with your friends, family or colleagues and tell us what you think. We look forward to seeing you there!

Public Exhibitions:
21st March 12pm - 9pm Saxmundham Market Hall

22nd March 12pm - 9pm Woodbridge Shire Hall
23rd March 12pm - 9pm Kessingland Community Centre


For further information about this study, please contact:
Dawn Korosso

Malborough House, Upper Malborough Road,St. Albans, Hertfordshire AL13 UTT
020 8784 5544

A meeting was held on 2nd December 2002 at Saxmundham Town Hall to present the results of the A12 Route Management Study by consultants to Suffolk County Council. It had a vigourous debate and a near unanimous vote that the attendees wanted the A12 made a dual carriageway from Ipswich to Yarmouth, a promise that was made by Westminster in the 1990's to be carried out by 2005, but not recommended by the study.

Rory Poole of consultants Oscar Faber presented the draft findings of the study commissioned by David Chenery for the SCC. 34,000 people were contacted in total, 33,000 leaflets distributed and 2,167 postal questionnaires were received and there were 143 workshop attendees.

Safety was the key concern above other operational characteristics. The KSI (killed or seriously injured) accident per journey/mile ratio is up 26% in last 5 years. Speed limits were key issue raised by public.

The Farnham section was cited as most in need of improvement.

Many improvements proposed such as crossings for pedestrians and bicycles (at Darsham).

Many users wanted improvements in East Suffolk rail line.

Blyth Valley highlights of the A12 RMS Implementation Plan:

Year 1 2002-03 Improve accident monitoring, Implement speed limit review, Improve bus stops. Implement traffic signal junction in Wrentham.
Year 2 2003-04 Improve accident monitoring, Implement pedestrian improvements in villages, Improved train interchange at Woodbridge and Darsham.

Year 3 2004-05 Improve accident monitoring, Implement spurs from National Cycle Route and other cycle route extensions. Saxmundham rail station improvements, Implement improved lay-bys as passing places and provide facilities for drivers. There is a shortage of rest stops and fuel and refreshment places, especially for HGVs.

Year 4-8 2005-11 Improve accident monitoring, Junction and link improvement:A12/A1095 Southwold junctionToby's Walk junction, New safe passing places

Proposed speed limits:

Yoxford and Darsham: extend 30 mph zone and 40 mph buffer zones.

Blythburgh: new 30 mph limit with 40 mph buffer zones

Expected additional journey time after all speed changes implemented between Seven Hills and Bloodmoor is approximately another 5 minutes to theoretical 39 - actual 45 minutes journey times.

Consultant's recommendation is no progression on bypass schemes and no dualling schemes, as both unlikely to pass public enquiry within the NATA guidelines.

The strategy would be taken to the meeting of the SCC executive committee on December 19th. Copies of the study should be with all relevant councils by now.

Joan Girling chaired a lively Q&A session:

Speaker from Stratford wanted to know why the report did not recommend a bypass in Stratford St Andrew in the Farnham section. There was much approval from all present that this was a dangerous and difficult spot and bypass efforts have been underway for a long time. Joan Girling responded with that the number of journeys did not justify a bypass and the road can't be improved or straightened without compulsory purchase. A 30 mph limit will be implemented.

Speaker from Melton asked about black spot warning signs and made a request for a speed triggered warning sign there. A representative from Southwold complained that the road signs were often badly placed and a proliferation was an information overload. Rory Poole responded that harmonisation of the driver information was part of the plan.

Wenhaston representative wanted to know if a wished for deceleration lane turning from the A12 was recommended. Rory Poole said it was not in the plan.

There was a long debate over the merits of speed cameras citing one at Snape turnoff. Speakers from Aldeburgh and Leiston said the drivers southbound were accelerating because of the dual carriageway and then decelerating again because of the speed camera at the return to single lane. It was a hazard because the length of dual section doesn't do enough to release traffic built up behind a slow moving vehicle, drivers get frustrated so the dual section should be increased. Joan Girling's response was drivers should not get frustrated but allow more time for journeys.

A Southwold representative said there were not enough lay-bys for slow tractors and trailers to pull over. Rory Poole said more lay-bys are in year 3 and 4 of plan. Some doubt was expressed that agricultural vehicles would use them.

Speaker from Woodbridge asked for a footbridge but David Chenery said it had been studied before and site didn't have enough room and too many mains services would need to be re-routed. A level interchange was best option. David Chenery went on to say that Spring 2003 will see rollout of five more speed cameras on A12.

A speaker from Martlesham said A12/A14 Gt Bealings was of concern, recent traffic improvements actually caused new problems and tailbacks and queue jumping was a hazard. Rory Poole said the footprint of the roundabout would be improved and more consulting with police.

Speaker from Lowestoft asked for improvement in A12 capacity (ie dualling) as essential to Lowestoft economic regeneration. Joan Girling said other economic regeneration schemes are underway to improve Lowestoft and as the A12 was now detrunked, Lowestoft should look west for communications improvements and not south.

Speaker from Yoxford asked for pedestrian crossing on A12 and Rory Poole said this was top of the list in year 2.

Speaker from Leiston said the study's findings are that the roads are clearly inadequate and nothing is delivered in the plan to remedy the undercapacity. SCC is hiding behind NATA assessments to do nothing. Joan Girling gave a passionate rebuttal saying so many other road schemes need priority and NATA requires consideration of many more factors than before.

Speaker from Martlesham asked what could be done with local employers, ie BT to improve road use. David Chenery said that SCC had been talking to BT for years to adopt a green travel plan without progress.

A question of the methodology of the risk assessment was put by a HSA engineer and satisfactorily explained by David Chenery.

An opinion was put forward that the study was more a plan to control costs than improve roads. Speaker from Blything Ward said that the plan did not do enough for the people of Lowestoft and the Blyth Valley and that improved road capacity was vital to the economy of the area or the area would starve. Joan Girling said a dual carriageway would not happen in her lifetime. Joan Girling was reminded of prior Govt promises for the A12. Joan Girling said not everyone wanted a dual carriageway. A show of hands was proposed and I estimate 80% were in favour. Joan Girling said it was about 50% so it was proposed that opponents raise their hands but the meeting was adjourned at 8.10 instead.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Not enough fat cats at the BBC

UPDATE: May 1st 2009

To follow on my story about the mouse infestation at the BBC World Service below:

Let me illustrate the danger of mice being allowed to infest buildings:

The Australian government has ordered an investigation into the case of a bedridden elderly man who was found covered in blood in a nursing home after his ears, neck and throat were chewed by mice. The eighty-nine year old man was attacked at a government-run home in the state of Queensland, where health officials have been struggling to cope with an infestation of mice. An Australian government minister, Justine Elliot, described the incident as extremely disturbing. She's told investigators to look at the procedures in the nursing home.

My spy at Bush House tells me that now five months later; the mice are still running riot throughout World Service news offices. They are effectively immune from attack, they run along skirting boards, make brazen dashes across the floor and stop in the middle to stand up and survey the carpet for stale sandwich crumbs. The threat of disciplinary action hangs over staff who might be 'tempted' into taking matters into their own hands. It has been made clear to staff that killing a mouse would contravene health and safety regulations however the promised 'dusting' by Rentokil either hasn't happened, or hasn't been effective.

A BBC employee of my acquaintance has told me that the mice infestation at Bush House, the offices of the BBC World Service, reported in the Guardian in October 2007 continues unabated. (The Guardian has also reported a mouse infestation at Television Centre.) At Bush House Rentokil was employed to lay traps but come January 2009 my informant was still seeing and hearing mice while working night shifts there. Every time they reported a mouse to Building Control they were told afterwards it had been dealt with which actually meant that it had been reported to Rentokil.

They wondered how often Rentokil was checking their high-tech humane traps and so a few weeks ago they turned a trap in a staff kitchen about 30 degrees off-kilter, as they are meant to be set parallel to the walls where the mice run, to see if anyone put it straight again. Two weeks later the trap hadn’t been moved. It hadn’t caught any mice either.

In frustration they bought a traditional spring mousetrap and set it with Green & Blacks chocolate in the kitchen. In 24 hours the trap had worked but before they could return to work, the dead mouse was discovered by someone else who complained to BBC management about the use of cruel traps.

Management launched an investigation and subsequently a memo was sent to all staff that due to HSE regulations, the staff were not to set their own traps and the memo said in BBC code that any further instances would be a disciplinary issue. It appears that Rentokil are now ‘dusting’ the infested areas. I presume that is a euphemism for poison. My informant promises to forward me the actual memo very soon for my research. I hope that dead mice don't get stuck somewhere and stink out the offices or a studio, as happened at the Westminster offices of the Daily Telegraph in 2007.

A contributing factor if not the root cause of this infestation could be the hygiene of the staff. Now that all catering and cleaning has been long been contracted-out of the BBC and there are no longer any of the lovely tea ladies and their trolleys nor a canteen; everyone brings in food to the offices and yet, as anyone who has shared a flat knows, nobody takes responsibility for keeping communal kitchens clean. Coffee cups are left unwashed in the sinks, food is left to rot in refrigerators. Very occasionally one of the more dedicated cleaners will empty out the fridge of rotting food and do the washing up but they point out to BBC management that this is not in their contract. To be fair, in my research into sustainability in the workplace I have heard many similar stories from schools, theatres and banks. It seems a given that any domestic chore at work like emptying the recycling bin is always thought someone else's job.

I suppose it's too late now to employ permanent catering and housekeeping staff with some maternal instincts to both mother and admonish the workers at Bush House but I'll bet the cost of that would compare favourably with Rentokil's contract.

Alternately, a long time ago I had one of those 'Picture Post' type books about working cats in London. The Post Office, the Tower of London and the
Cabinet Office all had official cats. It also appears that a German news channel has Lupin, its own studio cat who occasionally wanders into shot. I think a few quid of the license payers money on a cat would be far more effective than Jonathan Ross.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

The Cable Cowboy

The last time anyone counted* was 1987 and in England when over 30,000 demo tapes were being submitted to record companies every year. Back then, for every thousand records released only three ever got radio airplay. You can work out the chances of finding fame and fortune in the music business. But that was then.

Here below is Gene Dean (real name Eugene Noel) who has dreams of playing the Grand Ole Opry. To that end he made several appearances on public access television. He was also the subject of a photographic essay in 2004 (I borrowed this photo from the Fredricksburgh Free-Lance Star) on his campaign to get a recording contract and onto the Opry stage from his home studio. For probably quite understandable reasons - like a family and a job I'd guess - Gene didn't want to get there by touring night after night for years and years. If there is a blueprint for the career of a famous country singer, he probably saved himself a liver transplant and a few divorces. There's a book I couldn't trace put out by Goodway Publishing called 'Country songs and talk songs' by a certain Gene Dean as well.

I don't know if Gene ever made it but now that one of his old videotapes has surfaced on YouTube and after seeing it, I reckon the guy should get a break. Perhaps on a double bill with the Fendermen and their Mule Skinner Blues

Some bloggers who have picked up this video and are helping Gene gain viral fame seem to mock his 'freeze' posture at the end. Having worked on public access tv programmes, I'd guess poor Gene probably knew the video switcher was an inexperienced volunteer and thought a bit of room on the tail before the tape went black would be a good idea.

Many years ago I befriended a country and western singer called Fred Priddy while he held a residency at the Rusty Lantern bar in Beaumont CA. This cavernous inn was once John Wayne's favourite pit-stop when motoring to his ranch in Arizona. It could be the same Fred Priddy who now plays at a BBQ restaurant near Branson MO and gigs in the Ozarks sometimes, according to Facebook. I'll never forget Fred's kindness at inviting me into his trailer home and sharing a good few beers over several months that I was working in California's agricultural hinterland rebuilding a derelict ranchhouse on the San Timoteo Canyon road for the AFI short film 'Sweetwater'. This gave me an insight into the life of the itinerant musician and American lives in general and it was an interesting cultural exchange for both of us.

Fred once had dreams of stardom too and I hope it's still not too late for fame to find him either. A Fred Priddy is credited with the song; 'Love's no good 'til you give it away' Lyrics & music by Fred Priddy 1979.

So if it hasn't happened and if Gene's still playing, please, somebody, make his dream come true. It's the American way.

The Opry website says about "Becoming a Grand Ole Opry Member...
There's no magic formula, no secret code that grants access to one of the most coveted invitations in all of music.

The decision to increase the
Opry’s ranks is, and always has been, made exclusively by the show’s management. The people who’ve been entrusted with the Opry’s tradition and future direction take into account all the standards of success in country music—radio airplay, album and ticket sales, industry recognition—when considering an act for membership. The Opry considers career accomplishment, as well as the potential for continued success.

But the
Opry doesn’t simply pass out invitations to the biggest stars with the most hits. Opry management looks for a musical and a generational balance. Opry membership requires a passion for country music's fans, a connection to the music’s history. And it requires commitment – even a willingness to make significant sacrifices to uphold that commitment. Often, the Opry seeks out those who seek out the Opry, though decisions aren’t based on which artists appear most on the show, either.

The decision to bring a new act into the
Opry fold is a two-pronged one, based on a combination of career accomplishment and commitment. But, really, it comes down to just one word: relationships. The relationships between performers and fans. The relationships Opry members have with each other, relationships that may last for decades. And, perhaps most importantly, the relationship between each artist and the ideal of the Grand Ole Opry."

Well, I guess by now Gene has all that in spades. Please write to the
Opry and tell them to give this guy his break.

Gene Dean, The Cable Cowboy

Wilson, M. (1987) How to make it in the Rock Business. London: Columbus Books

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Die Sony, Die!

"Sony: please die. Please, please, in the name of all that is free and good and right, please just leave us alone and die."

So cries 'Anonymous' one of many posters on forums looking for answers on how to transfer their precious Mini Disc (MD) recordings to their PC while retaining their digital integrity.

The sad fact is, and my beef with Sony is, that you can't. And despite users petitions to Sony, it seems you never will.

In 2003 I bought a Sony MD with that intention. I plunked down £230 under the misinformation that this was possible when I wanted to record interviews for a documentary I was making and edit them on my PC. Sony had launched the 'Net MD' extension of their widely adopted MD format which promised transfer between the MD and the PC with something called Sonic Stage and the USB or optical cable provided. Their commercials said it was so, the salesman in Tottenham Court Road told me it was so.

They all lied to me. It appears many other people had that impression too which Sony did little to disabuse them of. Some wrote to the Guardian in their confusion when they found they couldn't do this: "I have bought a Sony Net MD Walkman to record audio on location and transfer digitally to a PC for editing. Sony's SonicStage 1.5 gives a fail message on attempting transfer of the sound file to the PC. Short of dubbing in real time, is there any other way of digitally transferring such a sound file, please? "

And so it goes on for thousands of posts in hundreds of forums.

It seems entirely logical doesn't it? You offer the ability to record digitally onto magneto optical disks and include in the box software that says transfer between MD and PC, so you would think it was capable of MD to PC wouldn't you? But the sad fact is that this software only enables PC to MD and NOT THE OTHER WAY ROUND.

It's not possible. Not now. Maybe not ever. What a waste of time and money for all of us. Offer an inexpensive way to make recordings with exceptional fidelity with whole host of really useful features such as marking tracks on the fly and then lead the user up a dead-end street in their work-flow.

The dreadful Sonic Stage interface facilitates 'check in' and 'check out' of songs on a PC into the MD. You could put a music CD in your PC and transfer it with all its song title information to your MD at high speed and excellent fidelity to take your music with you. What wasn't clear was that was all it did. The MD check-out feature wasn't a transfer. It just deleted the song from your MD and uncovered the original file languishing on your PC. So, if you had backed anything up to your MD and then lost your PC, you were basically stuffed.

You can record from your MD to a PC or other media via the analog line out in real time (yawn) but you will notice a drop in quality with increased hiss and loss of depth. If it is possible to transfer data at high speed in one direction, why on earth can't you go the other? Oh, because Sony, which owns movie studios and record companies, didn't want anyone with an MD to copy CDs onto their MD, then transfer their MD recording to CD burners or something else. Not even if you created that music, interviews, lectures, wildlife recordings in the first place?

Cheers Sony. You were on on the cusp of something great but your pettyness gave the whole digital recording market to the iPod once they woke up to it.

Another forum poster promises: "I'm going to start carrying my NetMD in my pocket for the off-chance I see some Sony exec somewhere - I'm gonna beam that sucker right their head.... that is if I don't chuck it into a lake, river or wall before that."

Eight years later, everywhere you look geeks are still crying; "All I do is cry cry cry. Silly me. I recorded a bunch of my live dj mixes and live recordings...about one years worth, before I even tried to do the MD > PC transfer. So I guess returning my MD is not an option. What a big waste of time and money... "It's a Sony."

I trawled the net for any recent updates and I couldn't find anything. A clever programmer has come up with Win NMD that enables you to extract file titles when you record from your MD but it's still a real-time analogue process unless you get into serious dosh for broadcast equipment (which the true pirate is going to have anyway).

'Anonymous' put my feelings succinctly; "It began in 2001, before the war on terror, when we were innocent and optimistic, when we believed that this new century could be a time of change-for-the-better. Five years later, and thanks to the cynicism of Sony, our simple dreams of a better and easier life have been shattered. Thank you Sony. Thanks for being part of the problem. "