Tuesday, 31 August 2010

New Statement From Ofcom On PMSE

Ofcom has released a statement setting out their decisions on a number of key issues relating to future spectrum access for programme-making and special events (PMSE). This encompasses a broad and diverse set of stakeholders, ranging from broadcasters and major theatrical companies to churches and schools, whose use of spectrum includes wireless microphones, wireless cameras and related equipment. Together, they make a major contribution to the economic, social and cultural well-being of the UK.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

BEIRG Asks For Deadline Extension

BEIRG has made a formal request to Ofcom for a universal extension to the current deadline for submission of comments to Equiniti regarding the rate card. The funding statement and corresponding rate card was only published on the 5th August yet equipment owners are expected to have reviewed their entire inventory, checked all units against the rate card and submitted comments by 2nd September. 

BEIRG considers this to be too short a timescale for the following reasons:   
1.       It is the holiday season. 
2.       It is the school and university holidays.   
3.       The majority of users are unlikely to have more than one or two members of staff who are qualified to do this work. If they are unavailable for whatever reason in this short time period then it will inevitably cause problems.   
4.      Whilst we are aware that Ofcom has written to licensees, the licensee (whilst being the owner) might not be the person who is responsible for these issues.   

BEIRG has requested that the deadline be extended until Friday 24th September. BEIRG is aware that the consequence of such an extension would be a three-week delay to the point at which claims will start to be processed (i.e. from March 2011 under the current timetable). Whilst BEIRG recognises the need for the process to start as soon as possible to allow an orderly and timely transition, it believes that the need to (as far as possible) eliminate the risk of people being excluded by virtue of an incorrect rate card outweighs the potential negative consequences of a three-week delay. 

In addition, BEIRG considers that the three-week delay to submissions regarding the rate-card need not necessarily result in any movement of the March 2011 date. BEIRG also believes that the solution would be for the spending plan to be digested and approved in a more timely manner by Ofcom and HM Treasury than is currently anticipated. 

Saturday, 14 August 2010

SAVE OUR SOUND UK’S REACTION TO THE OFCOM STATEMENT ON PMSE FUNDING

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) www.beirg.co.uk  

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.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Ofcom Statement On Funding

Last year we decided to clear the 800 MHz band so it matches the spectrum being released in other European countries. This will benefit people across the UK because the spectrum will be able to be used for new mobile broadband services. Because of this, programme-making and special events (PMSE) users will have to stop using channel 69. To help these users move, we have made a commitment to:
  • provide replacement spectrum and maintain PMSE access to channel 69 during the changeover period; and 
  • provide funding to eligible PMSE users who are affected by us clearing channel 69. 
Read the full statement here.