Save Our Sound UK

THE THREAT
Ofcom will shortly sell-off the radio frequencies that this industry and charitable sectors rely on, with auction proceeds going to the Government. As a consequence of this ‘migration’, the vast majority of the UK’s stocks of wireless microphones, which are essential tools for content production in the creative industries and beyond, will soon be rendered unusable.
If productions that depend on these technologies are to continue, then all affected equipment (worth tens of millions of pounds) will need to be replaced with gear that can operate on different frequencies, which remain for the most part unspecified. But those who own the equipment either cannot afford or will seriously struggle to cover the enforced costs of replacing entire inventories of valuable equipment. It is like a compulsory purchase order with little or no compensation.
THE CONSEQUENCES
If current proposals are implemented, ALL PRODUCTIONS AND BUSINESSES THAT DEPEND ON THE USE OF THESE TECHNOLOGIES WILL BE UNDER THREAT, from the freelance sound engineer to the Olympics, because of the way that the UK’s pool of equipment is held and supplied. The effects will be particularly severe in the short to medium term:
• Live music, newsgathering, musical theatre and other events are likely to become impossible to stage
• Companies will go bust, individuals will go bankrupt and employees will be made redundant
• The UK’s balance of payments will be severely affected
• Charitable and community organisations will have to divert funds from core services
THE CURRENT POSITION
Ofcom, supported by Government, has put forward a ‘funding package’ designed to ‘promote efficient use of spectrum’. The proposed terms are unacceptable and will have severe consequences for the industry:
1. Only equipment that tunes to one of the 15 ‘bands’ due to be sold will be eligible for any compensation
2. Funding will be based on ‘residual value’ of equipment, not what it will cost to replace
The situation is analogous to being forcefully evicted with little or no compensation and no change of address card. As it stands, the industry cannot plan for its future equipment needs and invest accordingly. Aside from one sole channel that is not fully available, its specific frequency allocations remain undecided.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE
Ofcom’s powers are more limited than Government’s; hence Ofcom may not provide what the industry needs. The Government must act to ensure that the funding package covers all affected equipment, not just some. It must also ensure that funding is based on what it will cost to replace equipment with like-for-like alternatives.
A MATTER OF MORAL OBLIGATION AS WELL AS PUBLIC POLICY
It is not right that the Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE) sector, that includes charitable organisations, should effectively pay for its own eviction, a process that will generate very significant revenues for the UK Government from the sale of the cleared radio frequencies. Surely then the Government must ensure that the PMSE sector does not suffer as a consequence of the clearance, particularly as what we are proposing will in all likelihood cost a small fraction of the auction proceeds?
SUPPORT OUR CAMPAIGN
We are writing to the Business Secretary to raise our concerns and will be doing more in the coming weeks, but we need your help. We urge all parties affected by this issue, which includes all those who ultimately consume the content made using these essential technologies, to support the campaign by writing to their local MP.