Pam and Peter

Peter Theodore and Pam Nemeny at Sydney’s 2RPH, where they read The Australian aloud for listeners with low vision. Picture: John Feder/The Australian

(Original article written by Rhiannon Down and published in The Australian)

In the silence of a tiny radio studio, nestled in central Sydney, radio presenters Pam Nemeny and Peter Theodore prepare to go live to air in a matter of seconds.

What makes these two veterans of the airwaves different is that they are part of a committed army of volunteer presenters who read the daily newspapers live to air for those who can’t do it themselves because of blindness, low vision, or an inability to hold a newspaper, or for those with literacy challenges.

When the clock strikes 11.30am every week on Friday the pair, who have been presenting together for 10 years, go live to their audience of thousands of listeners for their regular slot reading news stories and opinion pieces from The Australian.

Broadcasting across NSW via transmitters in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong, and on digital platforms, Radio 2RPH is part of a wider network of non-profit radio reading services in Australia.

Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, Radio 2RPH brings quality news and information reporting to a broader audience – and there is clearly a secondary benefit for the station’s lively community of volunteer readers and production staff.

Pam Nemeny Australian

Pam Nemeny reads The Australian newspaper on Radio 2RPH. Picture: John Feder/The Australian

Ms Nemeny, 67, who once worked as a reporter covering showbiz, has been volunteering at Radio 2RPH for 14 years and handles the mixing desk with aplomb, while reading news stories.

“I think it’s an outstanding service,” she said. “This helps not just keep people in touch but lets them know they are not being ignored or forgotten out there – we know you’re there; you’re as valid and important as any other member of society.

“And it’s not just the visually impaired – there are so many other reasons to tune in … long distance truck drivers for one, or people who are busy in the mornings and haven’t got the luxury of sitting down to read the paper.”

Peter Theodore Australian

Peter Theodore, a former opera singer, sees reading the newspaper aloud as the perfect opportunity to put his well-honed skills as a performer to good use. Picture: John Feder/The Australian

For Mr Theodore, 88, a former opera singer who performed in cabarets in 40 countries and a self-described “pure ham”, the role offers the perfect opportunity to put his well-honed skills as a performer to good use.

Though they bring their own creative flair to the microphone, there are some golden rules, most notably the importance of never “editorialising” or deviating from the written word on the page.

“We’re not allowed to make any comment about anything,” Mr Theodore said.

“Sometimes you literally bite your tongue but you have to burst that thought bubble; it’s part of the charter of the station we read the printed word and do not comment,” Ms Nemeny agreed.

The pair spend several hours before their program starts cutting out clippings from the newspaper and curating the stories they will read. “I try to make sure every article is different from the last, so it doesn’t become repetitive; some serious and some lighter,” Ms Nemeny said. “I try to think of something that won’t be too exhausting to listen to; if articles are too long I think people’s attention span is going to wane.”

For both presenters, their hour on the air provides a meaningful escape from the grind of daily life while also helping others.

“You’re broadcasting to thousands of people – it’s a great feeling,” Ms Nemeny said.