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PMSE set for very limited spectrum compensation

While Channel 69 will be accommodated by the UK PMSE 800MHz compensation package, Channels 31-37 and 61-68 will not be included. Accordingly, only 6% of the affected frequencies will be covered by the scheme.

There has been strong criticism of the UK Coalition Government after a series of announcements with grim implications for the creative industries. Despite strenuous campaigning efforts, the UK Government’s compensation package to PMSE (Performance Making & Special Events) users being evicted from the 800MHz spectrum is expected to encompass only 6% of the affected frequencies. If implemented, this would threaten many smaller businesses supplying live and broadcast events.

While Channel 69 will be included, Channels 31-37 and 61-68 are not part of the package. It is these additional channels that are required to produce large-scale events such as the forthcoming London Olympics.

The announcement by digital economy minister Ed Vaizey emerged in the same week that the Government said it wanted Ofcom to undertake an auction of 2.6GHz and 800MHz radio spectrum by the end of 2011, paving the way for new mobile broadband technologies including 4G.

Reflecting on the PMSE decision, Save Our Sound UK’s spokesman commented: “To call this package ‘generous’ is an abuse of the English language. The decision will devastate the small and medium-sized businesses that support the UK’s live events industry. Where are they going to find the extra money to continue to do their job? Without them, the large-scale events sector could collapse like a house of cards.

“This shows that the Minister simply does not understand how the Programme Making and Special Events (PMSE) sector works. An injustice has been done. But worse than that – it is an injustice that will have severe consequences.

“The winners are the spectrum-greedy behemoth corporations and the Government. The losers are the little guys. So much for ‘Compassionate Conservatism’, and where is business secretary Vince Cable, who supported SOS UK in the first place?”

The live and broadcast audio communities are by no means the only wing of the UK arts and creative fraternity to express their disappointment at recent decisions by the Coalition Government, which took shape after an indecisive General Election in May. Following an initial announcement of £66m-worth of cuts to the DCMS budget in May, the last week alone has seen the Government announce plans to abolish the UK Film Council and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council as part of its overall drive to reduce public spending.

UK Film Council chairman Tim Bevan was not inclined to pull any punches, declaring that people would “rightly look back on today’s announcement and say it was a big mistake, driven by short-term thinking and political expediency. British film, which is one of the UK’s more successful growth industries, deserves better.”

Many connected with the live audio world may now be having similar thoughts. Although there is evidence that SOS UK’s arguments about longevity and use-value of equipment have been accepted, the profound effect that the forthcoming spectrum changes will have on the viability of live events has yet to hit home. Save Our Sound UK continues to lead the charge for sufficient PMSE compensation.