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Ofcom spectrum plans: now 30 MPs and Lloyd Webber join the fray

test 16 January 2007

UK: Pressure on Ofcom to accommodate the requirements of entertainment professionals within its proposals to auction off over 30% of terrestrial TV’s UHF allocation continues to grow following publication of the agency’s consultation document, the Digital Dividend Review (DDR). Theatre composer/impressario Lord Andrew Lloyd-Webber and several prominent MPs are among those now publicising their concerns, writes David Davies.

Speaking to The Daily Telegraph (4/1/07), Lloyd-Webber suggested that unsuccessful intervention over the issue could force a return to cabled microphones – a change that he thinks would be unacceptable for modern audiences of musical theatre.

Meanwhile, Andrew MacKinlay is the lead signatory for an Early Day Motion on the issue that now commands the support of over 30 MPs. The Labour member for Thurrock also issued written questions to the House of Commons on January 8th.

Ofcom’s consultation period is due to end in late March, by which time the PMSE (Programme Making and Special Events) Pro Users Group – the ‘umbrella’ identity recently adopted by BEIRG (British Entertainment Industry Radio Group), the PSA (Production Services Association) and other affected organisations – intends to have produced a comprehensive response.

Individual organisations have given the DDR a cautious welcome, but there are few illusions that the fundamental principle underlying the plans – to sell off the relevant areas of the spectrum to the highest bidder(s) – has changed.

“It makes a lot of noises about PMSE and there’s certainly a lot more mention [regarding our concerns] than there would have been if it had been written six months earlier,” Autograph Sound’s Duncan Bell tells PSN-e. “But while there are opportunities to talk and move on, the basic position that this is a dividend to make lots of money doesn’t really change.”

Shure’s Alan March – a member of the BEIRG steering committee – prefers to hold off from making a full comment until the PMSE Pro Users Group’s formal response has been collated. In the meantime, he urges PSN-e readers to attend the PSA AGM on February 5 (details at the PSA website), where there will be an opportunity to quiz Ofcom representatives directly about the DDR


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