Dispute helps Smashey and Nicey rediscover their voices

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An actor's boycott of television adverts has given an unexpected lease of life to a much maligned group of entertainers - former Radio One DJs.

Bruno Brookes, Keith Chegwin and Mike Read - three DJs of the generation whose ingratiating style was pilloried mercilessly by the comedian Harry Enfield through his characters Smashey and Nicey - are making a comeback in advertisements while members of the actors' union, Equity, continue a ban as part of a pay dispute with advertisers.

Advertising agencies are becoming so short of people to make their commercials they have been recruiting commuters as they get off trains and drinkers as they file out of pubs.

The problem began in May when Equity told its members to boycott British television commercials in protest at plans to reduce by up to two-thirds the fee paid to voice-over artists.

This has created an opportunity for the former Radio One trio - who are all working currently on commercials. With repeat fees and royalties they could earn up to pounds 20,000.

Almost all actors are members of Equity but some DJs classify themselves as "presenters". Tony Fox, agent for the trio, said: "When Keith Chegwin is on a TV commercial he doesn't play a `role'. He doesn't act. He appears as Keith Chegwin."

Bruno Brookes, who currently fronts various radio shows from a converted studio in his home, said: "My advertising work has tripled since the boycott began. I've got no problem with Equity but while its members are not available the wheels of advertising have to keep moving."

He added that hiring radio presenters such as himself was more expensive for the industry.

All of which has left Equity rather deflated. A spokesman for the union said: "The artists need to know that we are acting in the interests of anyone who does voice-overs. We will be speaking to their representatives so they are made fully aware that if we lose this case everyone involved could lose out."