UK: The announcement by spectrum manager JFMG emerges at the end of another productive month for the Save Our Sound campaign, writes David Davies. Following Ofcom's recent confirmation PMSE users will shift from Channel 69 to 38 in 2012, JFMG has announced that the latter channel will become available for shared use of wireless mics and personal monitors, subject to specific geographical restrictions.
From January 4, the current UHF UK Wireless Microphone Licence will include specified Channel 69 frequencies and access to Channel 38. Terms of access for Channel 38 will differ from Channel 69 in that the licence will not be limited to specific frequencies; instead, a frequency range will be available. This means that coordinated, exclusive-use licences will no longer be available in Channel 38.
JFMG notes that these arrangements were "favoured" by respondents to Ofcom's recent consultation on Channel 69 reallocation funding arrangements. With Channel 38 not fully available throughout the UK until 2012, temporary access to Channels 39 and 40 has also been granted in the relevant areas. All licensees affected by the changes will shortly receive letters advising them of how to proceed.
Speaking to PSN-e, JFMG managing director Paul Gill (pictured) says that the spectrum manager will soon introduce a 'UHF Spectrum for UK Wireless Microphone Licence' look-up tool on its website. "The licence will put the onus on the user to check that they are using the appropriate spectrum in whichever location they are in," he explains. "The look-up tool will be openly available from our homepage and no log-in will be required."
Meanwhile, Gill confirms that JFMG will "absolutely" seek a continuation of its role when the much-discussed PMSE band manager contest takes place, probably in the spring.
As spectrum reallocation approaches, the Save Our Sound UK campaign - which aims to secure comprehensive funding to cover the costs associated with the changes - is continuing to make national headlines. In one notable development, UK communications minister Stephen Timms wrote to organisers in response to SOS UK's recent approach to Lord Mandelson.
Timms acknowledged the contribution made by the PMSE sector to the social, cultural and economic health of the nation, adding: "You have set out your case for a wider basis for financial support, beyond that proposed by Ofcom and we are currently giving this careful consideration in consultation with Ofcom."
In another key development, SOS UK supplied funding estimates to the UK Department for Business which suggest that if the campaign's revised criteria were adopted, the estimated cost would be just under £75 million. Of this total, only £7-8m would be needed to cover those being evicted from channels 31-37 and 61-68 since the bulk of affected equipment tunes to channel 69 anyway.
Meanwhile, long-term PMSE sympathiser Peter Luff called for compensation proposals to be amended during a recent Select Committee oral evidence session on Ofcom's Annual Plan that saw him question the regulator's chief executive, Ed Richards. Luff - who is Conservative MP for Mid Worcestershire and chairman of the Commons Business, Innovation and Skills Select Committee - has also tabled a Motion calling on the government to provide a compensation package covering all 15 spectrum channels being cleared, and at levels that cover the full costs of replacing existing equipment with like-for-like alternatives (more details via second link below).