Outrage as OFCOM contractor sells taxpayer funded equipment into ‘cleared’ spectrum

Company appointed by Ofcom to make way for new 4G services in the 800MHz band are selling equipment into the spectrum which taxpayers paid them to clear. In 2009 Ofcom announced that wireless microphone users would be evicted from the 800MHz band to make way for new mobile broadband services.  Following an industry campaign, Save Our Sound UK, which pointed out the damage being done to the British entertainment industry, the UK Government agreed to fund part of the clearance of the band.  To qualify for taxpayer funding, Channel 69 equipment had to be surrendered. This equipment is now being resold back into the band which taxpayers paid to remove it from, by the scheme’s administrator – Equiniti.  A significant amount of equipment has already been sold, and Equiniti are now gearing up their operations to release up to 80,000 channels for use in UK spectrum.  Only a fraction of the profit from the sale is going to the taxpayer who financed the scheme – the rest goes directly to Equiniti. The British Entertainment Industry Radio Group (BEIRG) has repeatedly warned Ofcom about the damage that resale of this equipment could cause to manufacturers, wireless microphone users, and taxpayers.  An influx of under-priced equipment, which will not be licensable in just over a year, will grossly distort the UK microphone sale and hire market – and will go against the very purpose of the taxpayer funded scheme. BEIRG is also concerned that Equiniti’s actions may ultimately affect the attractiveness of the 800MHz band to mobile broadband companies.  The price they are willing to pay in next year’s 4G auctions could be considerably reduced.  If this resale continues UK taxpayers will end up paying for this scheme twice over: –          Once in the original funding scheme (including the fee paid by Ofcom to Equiniti) –          Second, in the reduced price mobile companies pay for 4G spectrum auction Following a meeting with Equiniti today (Wednesday 14th September) Ron Bonner, from PLASA and the BEIRG Steering Committee, stated: “Equiniti has been paid from our taxes, through Ofcom, to administer the PMSE funding scheme.  Equiniti have not paid for the equipment themselves – the public paid for it.  Equiniti now want to sell the equipment on for profit, whilst damaging microphone manufacturers’ and the taxpayers’ chance of getting the highest price for the 800MHz band when it is auctioned next year.  Ofcom need to step in now to stop this sale, and ensure that the original purpose of the scheme is not undermined by the re-release of surrendered equipment into UK spectrum.” Taken from BEIRG website For further information, contact: Fiona Graham On behalf of the BEIRG Steering Committee fiona@ranelagh.info Tel: 0207 828...

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Radio Mic – switch off – register for funding now!

One month left for wireless microphone users to register for wirelessmicrophone funding Ofcom is calling on licensed wireless microphone users to register for aGovernment funding scheme set up earlier this year to help pay for thereplacement of channel 69 equipment. This equipment will stop working in2012. The scheme closes on 31 December 2010. Countries across Europe are clearing a block of frequencies to make way fornew services like next-generation mobile broadband. Part of this block –called channel 69 (854-862 MHz) – is used by wireless microphones. Replacement frequencies for channel 69 have been made available in channel38 (606-614 MHz) as well as other frequencies – but existing microphoneswill need to be replaced or modified to work at these new frequencies. In July 2010, the Government announced that it will be providing acontribution towards the cost of new equipment for those users who areeligible under the terms of the scheme. Those affected will receive roughly55% towards the cost of replacing their equipment. Who is eligible? Eligible applicants will have held a valid WT Act channel 69 licence for atleast part of the period between 3 February 2008 and 2 February 2009inclusive. The exception to this will be equipment hiring companies that canprove their channel 69 business exclusively involves renting out (and notinstalling or operating) channel 69 equipment. The equipment must be inworking condition and capable of tuning to channel 69 but not to channel 38.It must have been bought before 30 June 2009. Users who consider themselves eligible for funding must register their claimby 31 December 2010. Any claim received after this date will not be acceptedunder the terms of the funding scheme. Applicants can register and manage their claims online at www.pmsefunding.co.uk.Alternatively, they can call the helpline free of charge on 0800 011...

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Gordon Brown falls foul of a radio mic

Prime minister Gordon Brown has been caught on tape calling an old lady “bigoted” after speaking to her on a walkabout in Rochdale. The comment was made to an aide after he had returned to his vehicle and was starting to drive away. It will be small comfort to him that the mic was most likely on Channel 69 the band of frequencies the government are removing from use by the media in 2012. He might also like to consider that prior to budget cuts in newsgathering a sound recordist would have been in the chain between his microphone and the tape and they may well have faded down his mic before he started to drive away…. The whole story and a recording of the offending remark can be found on the BBC news...

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Happy New Year from OFCOM (well sort of!)

JFMG have sent emails today (4th Jan 2010), following on from letters last week to Channel 69 Wireless Microphone Licence holders. The email is less clear, but the letters say that all shared Channel 69 licences issued from today will also include shared use of Channel 38 (606-614 MHz). There are however still areas where Channel 38 is not available in order to protect radio astronomy (Cheshire and Cambridgeshire). JFMG are providing a web check tool to help identify these areas, additionally in these areas frequencies from Channels 39/40 will be made available but you must check in advance which frequencies are available in a particular location. Protection for radio astronomy ends on Jan 1st 2012 when I assume channel 38 will be available countrywide and use of 39/40 will be withdrawn from the shared licence. It’s not clear whether anyone who currently has a licence for channel 69 can swap this for a new channel 38/39/40/69 shared licence at no additional cost – unless they have recently renewed a licence that was due to expire on or after 4th Jan 2010. No mention is made of when or what funding will be available for the change over. I can’t imagine that many freelancers will want to hand over their channel 69 mics in exchange for funding (assuming this is how it will work) before channel 38 is available all over the country or am I missing something? I’ve heard that at least one person has got very confusing information when calling JFMG and being told they need two licences – one for 69 and one for 38 at additional cost. It does seem rather unfair if new licences will include all the frequencies but the old ones cost the same but don’t. All the relevant letters are available online (links below). Channel 69 Shared Licence letterChannel 69 Co-ordinated letterChannel 38 letterChannel 40 letter **UPDATE Please read Paul Gill’s comment on this post which clears up the...

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Save Our Sound – write to your MP!

The Save Our Sound website is spearheading a letter writing campaign to MPs to highlight the current lack of a fair compensation scheme for current users of the radio mic channels which are about to be cleared by OFCOM. Save Our Sound have provided a set of templates for letters to MPs so there’s no excuse not to make your voice heard! Get downloading and write! If you don’t know who your local MP is, find out...

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In Praise of… channel 69

Fantastic editorial in today’s Guardian The Guardian, Tuesday 17 November 2009 With the possible exception of Britney Spears and Madonna,few would die for a wireless microphone. But you would bewrong to think it is not a subject capable of stoking passion.Much of the live entertainment industry in Britain, alongwith sports events, conferences and community events, willbe affected by an Ofcom plan to auction off the radiofrequencies upon which the industry depends. The frequencies, known collectively as channel 69, wereoriginally exempted from the large block of spectrum beingfreed up as the country switches from analogue to digital TV.But such is the potential value of this prime bit of frequencyreal estate for mobile broadband that the government couldnot resist kicking the entertainments industry off thischannel.Ofcom plans to move all current users on to a differentchannel, but that is not the point. In the process, everyonewill have to throw away their old radio mics and buy new ones.This is worth tens of millions of pounds, and Ofcom ispromising to refund only the residual value of the equipmentit is junking, not the replacement value. Many involved in livemusic are operating on low margins and, in the case ofcharitable and community organisations, no margins at all.Much of the equipment is owned by small, specialist firms,which could go bust. One of two things has got to happen.Either Ofcom extends the period left to use microphones onthe old frequencies, or the government should pay...

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