UK battle over wireless spectrum continues

By Kevin Hilton

Producers and broadcasters of sport and other live events have made their

presence felt in the consultation process for the re-allocation of radio

spectrum that will follow the switch-over from analogue television in the

UK. As a result of concerted lobbying the regulator, Ofcom, is to publish a

new discussion document, possibly by the middle of June.

There were fears that mobile phone companies would be able to buy up prime

frequencies, possibly compromising future plans for HDTV. Concerns have also

been voiced over the position of the programme makers and special events

(PMSE) sector, which covers the use of wireless microphones, in-ear

monitoring and talkback for TV production, live music and theatre.

Live TV in general is now reliant on wireless equipment, which now includes

cameras as well as mics, but the sports sector in particular has a vested

interested in what happens with the allocation of frequencies in the future.

As a result broadcasters, production companies and manufacturers have

lobbied both Ofcom and members of Parliament to stake a claim to frequencies

that will become available as part of the Digital Dividend Review.

Chief amongst these is the PMSE Users Group, which includes the British

Entertainment Industry Radio Group (BEIRG), the Professional Lighting and

Sound Association (PLASA) and the Institute of Broadcast Sound. An Ofcom

spokesman said a large number of proposals had been received from programme

makers and general wireless microphone users. These are being considered and

will be incorporated into the new document for further discussion.

The lobbyists employed by the PMSE sector have succeeded in raising the

profile of their clients and guaranteeing a voice in the discussions. But

this has cost a considerable amount of money, the bulk of which has been

shouldered by PLASA. In an effort to ensure the campaign continues the UK

subsidiaries of microphone manufacturers Shure and Sennheiser have pledged

6000 each to a fund that has a target of 60,000 for future activities.

Alan March of Shure UK, who also represents BEIRG, and John Steven, director

of marketing at Sennheiser UK, are hoping that other manufacturers will

follow the lead and help keep the campaign running until at least the end of

the year. “This affects the whole industry so everyone should contribute,”

observed Steven.