Organisations representing the programme makers and special events (PMSE) sector have given Ofcom’s final arrangements for compensating wireless equipment users operating in channel 69 a lukewarm reception, writes Kevin Hilton.
These were published on 5th August and outline the funding available to those affected by the clearing of the 800MHz band. This statement follows an interim plan issued by Ofcom in April detailing how those using wireless equipment in channel 69 will move to channel 38 “or other replacement spectrum”.
At the end of July the new UK government announced its plans for funding packages to support PMSE users who will have to move from channel 69. Campaign groups, including Save Our Sound UK (SOSUK) and the Institute of Broadcast Sound (IBS), were angry that compensation was not extended to those using other channels.
Under Ofcom’s plan users will be eligible for funding if they held a licence to use channel 69 equipment on 2nd February 2009, when notice was given to clear the frequency, or in the 12 months leading up to that date. The only exception is companies that are able to prove they hire out channel 69 equipment rather than use it.
The compensation has been worked out at “roughly 55 percent of the cost of replacing equipment with an equivalent model”. This is estimated on the possible cost of gear at the end of 2012, rather than 2018, which was the original date set for closing channel 69 for PMSE.
Ofcom has appointed business services and administration company Equiniti to oversee the registration process for funding. As scheme administrator Equiniti has drawn up a rate card (see web link below) listing wireless equipment, its current value and the projected price in 2012. From this, the amount of compensation due for each item can be calculated. Registration runs from 23rd September to the end of December.
The regulator has asked the PMSE sector to check the list and suggest any corrections or additions. The deadline for these submissions is 2nd September, which Alan March, spokesman for trade body BEIRG (British Entertainment Industry Radio Group), feels does not give people enough time to respond. “People are on holiday and institutions that use wireless equipment, like schools, are closed,” he says. “We are making a representation to get this extended, even if that means payment is put back.”
March also reiterated the audio industry’s concerns about compensation being restricted to channel 69 equipment. “Just because it is a legal arrangement doesn’t make it morally right,” he says.
In its response to the compensation plan, SOSUK acknowledged that Ofcom and the government had recognised the needs of the PMSE sector but said the new 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”.
SOSUK added that the 55 percent compensation offer meant theatres, freelancers, musicians and church and community groups using wireless equipment would “struggle to find the extra capital” for replacements.