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SOSUK issues full response to PMSE funding plan

Dave Robinson 24 August 2010

Save Our Sound UK has released a full statement in response to the funding plan that will help PMSE users adjust to post-800MHz operation. The scheme finally announced on August 5 will cover only Channel 69 – thereby excluding 31-37 and 61-68 – and is set to deliver "roughly 55%" of the costs encountered by PMSE (performance making & special events) users in securing replacement equipment.

Having issued an initial statement shortly after the plans were revealed (covered by PSN-e here), Save Our Sound UK – the industry group which campaigned for compensation for PMSE users affected by the 800MHz clearance – has now released a more extensive comment on the scheme.

The statement reads: "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."

Details of the scheme – which was announced by culture, media and sport Under-Secretary of State Ed Vaizey (pictured) – emerged a week after the UK Government gave the go-ahead for Ofcom to conduct a combined auction of 2.6GHz and 800MHz spectrum. The sale, set to pave the way for new mobile broadband services, is likely to take place towards the end of next year.

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