In Praise of… channel 69
Fantastic editorial in today’s Guardian
The Guardian, Tuesday 17 November 2009
few would die for a wireless microphone. But you would be
wrong to think it is not a subject capable of stoking passion.
Much of the live entertainment industry in Britain, along
with sports events, conferences and community events, will
be affected by an Ofcom plan to auction off the radio
frequencies upon which the industry depends.
The frequencies, known collectively as channel 69, were
originally exempted from the large block of spectrum being
freed up as the country switches from analogue to digital TV.
But such is the potential value of this prime bit of frequency
real estate for mobile broadband that the government could
not resist kicking the entertainments industry off this
Ofcom plans to move all current users on to a different
channel, but that is not the point. In the process, everyone
will have to throw away their old radio mics and buy new ones.
This is worth tens of millions of pounds, and Ofcom is
promising to refund only the residual value of the equipment
it is junking, not the replacement value. Many involved in live
music are operating on low margins and, in the case of
charitable 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 on
the old frequencies, or the government should pay up.