Ofcom decision ‘could prove catastrophic’ for the creative industries

BEIRG has expressed "disappointment and concern" at Ofcom’s announcement that it is removing PMSE users from the 700 MHz band of radio spectrum.

According to BEIRG (The British Entertainment Industry Radio Group), the regulator’s decision to allocate spectrum currently used by much of the PMSE (Programme Making and Special Event) sector to mobile network operators poses a real threat to some of the UK’s most important cultural, social and economic events.

As a result of these changes, radio microphones and other wireless audio devices that the country’s creative industries rely on could be forced to operate in less than two thirds of the spectrum they currently have access to.

Every night, over 1,000 wireless radio microphones are used in London’s West End alone, largely operating within the spectrum that is to be cleared.

The Group has predicted that if appropriate mitigating steps are not taken, the move could prove "catastrophic" for these key economic areas, and the UK could see a major reduction in the size of its live entertainment sector.

It warns that music festivals and major national events, such as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert, would be "almost impossible" to stage, the West End would be unable to operate at its current level and major TV, and film productions and conferences would be disrupted.

Although Ofcom is looking to set aside a sufficient quantity and quality of spectrum for PMSE users, BEIRG is "deeply concerned" about the swift progress of PMSE’s removal from the 700 MHz band, and says little is currently being done to find a new home for wireless microphones. The association believes Ofcom needs to rethink its priorities, and provide appropriate funding for the industry to purchase replacement equipment.

“This decision by Ofcom poses a real danger to some of the UK’s most cherished cultural and social institutions. The West End, theatres, television and film production, music festivals and conferences all rely on wireless microphones and other wireless audio devices," said BEIRG’s Michael Grade. "If these devices are not guaranteed enough spectrum in which to operate this really could mean lights out. Ofcom have had years to sort this out and all we have is a promise of a solution. When the public can’t get the shows they have paid to see, we will all know where the blame lies.”

In its official statement, Ofcom noted that it aims to make the 700 MHz band available for mobile use "by 2022 and sooner if possible."

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