Save Our Sound - LATEST

OFCOM concessions on Wireless migration - but still a long way to go ...

Following a statement from OFCOM regarding their proposed treatment of compensation claims from owners of wireless equipment that relies on channel 69 (the 800Mhz band), the group of manufacturers and user representatives who launched the S.O.S. campaign met at PLASA's London office at Earls Court on Friday (14th) to agree an official reaction statement.

Whilst OFCOM have made some key concessions that will help some of the larger owners such as theatres and  hire-companies collect up to 55% of the cost of re-equipping, there are still serious concerns about the timing of the final migration from ch 69 and the full availability of ch 38 - the space in the wireless spectrum allocated as a replacement for ch 69 users - at least until after Channel Five leaves those frequencies..

Particular worries were expressed by those involved in outside use of wireless kit - especially the news gathering units who need to able to venture everywhere in the UK using whatever frequencies are universally available... and ch 38 will not be universally available for some time leaving many AMPS and IBS members with little choice but to continue using ch 69 kit.

Another on-going concern will effect the largest number of wireless owners - the individuals who have one or two  products at the entry level.  Many of these mic and monitor sets are able to operate in ch 70 - an unregulated space which does not require a license to be used - and there are real fears as to whether this part of the spectrum will be sufficiently interference-free to be operable.  SImilar fears exist for ch 71 despite an understanding amongst some representatives that ch 70/71 would provide a safe haven for the unlicensed users. 

Essentially, owners of of entry level and unlicensed wireless equipment should not expect to qualify for compensation and should not rely upon switch-ability to ch 70 past 2012. Be very careful what you buy!


As we know, the Government and Ofcom have decided to clear TV bands 31-37 and 61-69 of all wireless microphones and similar technologies that operate on these frequencies. At the end of July, Communications Minister Ed Vaizey announced that the Government would be making a “significant contribution” to the replacement cost, but only for equipment that tunes to channel 69.   Following on from this, Ofcom published a statement providing details on the compensation package, including eligibility criteria. Save Our Sound UK has since had time to digest the content and consult with stakeholders.

The SOS UK campaign has been successful in persuading the UK Government to take another major step towards addressing the needs of the PMSE community. Following the willingness of the authorities to engage with the issues on a detailed level, the Government has decided not to take into account the age of equipment that requires upgrading. This is a hugely important step because the ‘residual value’ concept, if implemented, would have been devastating to the industry.  The change in position is also attributable to the hard work of all those involved in the campaign, including our many supporters in Parliament and industry leaders such as Harvey Goldsmith and Sir Cameron Mackintosh.

However, the Ofcom statement does nothing to ease the plight of those who own equipment that does not happen to tune to channel 69 but will still be rendered redundant as a result of Government action. As SOS UK has previously stated, this decision will disproportionately hurt those small businesses and individuals that supply equipment and expertise to high-value large-scale events.

In addition, the fact that the ‘significant contribution’ only amounts to around 55% of the cost of replacing redundant equipment means that there will be a large number of affected groups, including theatres, freelancers, musicians and church and community users who will struggle to find the extra capital required to replace their equipment. Ofcom itself recognised these problems in its statement.

The work done by the Government and Ofcom in the lead-up to this decision demonstrates that the contribution the Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE) sector makes to the UK is a unique and valuable one. Save Our Sound UK welcomes this recognition and looks forward to continued engagement to ensure that this important sector is protected from threats such as ‘white space’ or ‘cognitive’ devices, which have the potential to pollute the airwaves so severely that PMSE applications become unusable. For more information, please contact a member of the British Entertainment Industry Radio Group (BEIRG).

In terms of the funding package, Save Our Sound UK will work closely with officials to ensure that the funding administration runs smoothly and what is promised is delivered. Since the final spending plan is yet to be determined and approved, SOS will keep the pressure up to help ensure that it is.

In the meantime SOS UK strongly recommends that equipment owners examine their inventories, compare their units with the rate card available at www.pmsefunding.co.uk and inform the scheme administrators Equiniti of any errors or omissions.

© APRS, 2010
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