== Screen savers? We have some solutions ==

It’s been months now since Big Media went blankly to that big screen in the sky leaving retailers high and dry with some 230 dead screens in their stores. Then there was the hope of a rescue by Eurowide Media which had bought the aforementioned from the liquidator. Too many months. And retailers are getting restless, wondering when something might happen.

Sean Prowse, who runs Coped Hall Service Station at Wooton Bassett near Swindon, got in touch to say that his screens briefly sprang to life but after a few days went back to blank. He was unable to get any firm response from Eurowide and he posed a number of interesting questions to me.

Have any retailers successfully stopped their direct debits/got out of their leases with the finance company/companies involved? Do any have a DIY solution? Are there any other companies out there offering a quicker or alternative rescue to Eurowide?

It turns out there are two positives already although I can’t include Eurowide as they seem vague on what they are actually doing at the moment. On November 12 the company said it would get back to me if it could provide me with any more information. Still nothing.

Meanwhile I called the David Taylor Group - with five signed-up sites in Wales and therefore a great deal to lose. Janine Sharpless, who had originally alerted me to Big Media’s about-to-fold situation, told me that 1) her brother Scott Taylor did indeed have a DIY solution and 2) the group had discovered an alternative supplier. Step forward Chris Worden who runs The Marketing House (0845 204 1022). He is offering what can be summed up as a ’damage limitation’ solution. He has been in advertising for 15 years and latterly spent three of them as sales manager for the Post Office selling space on those screens in sub post offices. So he has screens and expertise. Both are free. (He makes his money from the advertisers.)

He is offering two options to retailers: keep the old 14-inch Big Media screen where he can overwrite the software. He will pay you £750 a year in royalties per site. Or you can take his 20-26 inch screens, free, no maintenance fees and free upgrades, with £50 a year in royalties. It will offset your liability with your finance company and it will provide you with a great sales tool - a 10-minute loop system with four minutes devoted to your shop’s promo lines and six minutes to local business ads which Chris and his 10-strong nationwide team will sell.

Now, the DIY bit. Scott Taylor tells me: "We’re just doing PowerPoint presentations - that my 13-year-old kids are doing in schools these days - and setting them on a loop to play in store. We feature the hot food special offers and CCTV footage of drive-offs asking ’do you recognise this person’?"

== A really impressive performance ==

You guys running forecourts have more chutzpah than the rest of retailing put together. Mike Andrews wrote from Maiden Newton Service Station in Dorchester: "I have a Spar convenience store with filling station and workshops. Some two-to-three years ago in came the Performing Rights Society. I was playing Spar radio, oblivious to the fact that a performing rights licence was required. I was told I would have to get a licence if I wished to continue. This was followed by a letter a few weeks later reiterating this. I cut up the dedicated card Spar uses, sent it to them and told them to stick it where the sun doesn’t shine, and that I had no intention of sending them £350 of which the actual performer would be lucky to receive 1p in the pound, with the rest being swallowed in administration. That, I thought, would be the end of it."

But it wasn’t because he was further pestered through the post telling him if he played music in the workshop he may require a licence.

"At this point," he adds, "I thought I would ring them, and I was asked several times for my postcode. This I refused as I certainly wasn’t going to reveal my whereabouts so that they could come and hound me further." They asked him how many people were in the workshop, and when he said two he was told that he would need a performing rights licence as there was more than one person. He asked them that if a customer asks him to fit a new music system is he supposed to refuse, as tuning it in will mean that it will be within the earshot of more than one person neither of whom has a licence.

"After the errs and the umms the reply was that might be alright. I followed this up with the fact that every car usually carries more than one person in it. Why don’t they need a licence? The answer was that that was different. What’s different? Still two people listening to music."

He is regularly still getting letters from the PRS asking him to ring them on an 0870 premium number to establish whether he needs a licence. "What an absolute cheek," he concludes.