Ofcom leaves space for radio mics
Ofcom has published a consultation response which sees the entertainment industry recognised as at 'serious risk of market failure' should Ofcom sell off all the available radio frequencies to the highest bidder, in the planned auction of spectrum due as a result of analog TV closedown.
Ofcom have awarded the available interleaved spectrum or "white space" (two blocks of spectrum - 470-550 MHz and 630-806 MHz) for use by the Programme Makers and Special Events (PMSE) sector and this will be administered by a band manager. A reorganised version of the existing Joint Frequency Management Group (JFMG) may take this role.
The announcement is a huge development for the UK industry which, led by the British Entertainment Industry Radio Group (BEIRG), alongside industry groups AMPS, IBS, PLASA, PSA, SOLT and the MU, has lobbied Ofcom and the UK government over a long period to explain the plight of PMSE users, who rely on spectrum for wireless microphones, monitors and communications.
The move was assisted by political lobbyists Ranelagh International, who were funded throughout the process by PLASA. One result of this, was action by Peter Luff MP, who raised the issue in an adjournment debate in the House of Commons in March this year.
"While undoubtably a great breakthrough, this is just one part of a long-term effort," states BEIRG spokesman, Alan March. "Getting the sector recognised is good, but in the coming months we have to continue to work hard. The issue is by no means now closed in our favour."
Outlining the decision, Ofcom states that: "We have carefully considered arguments for reserving spectrum for a variety of particular uses, but we have not found them compelling...
"The exception to our market led approach is for PMSE, which already uses interleaved spectrum on a large scale. This is an extremely diverse community, and we do not think it would be able to take part effectively in an auction, creating a serious risk of market failure. We will therefore hold a beauty contest to award a package of interleaved spectrum to meet PMSE users’ needs."
Outlining the new strategy, Ofcom continues: "Ofcom will award most of the available interleaved spectrum by ‘beauty contest’ to a band manager who will be required to manage spectrum for PMSE users. This process will be designed to ensure that the licensee’s interests are aligned with those of PMSE users. The licensee will earn revenue by charging for access to the spectrum but will be required to meet reasonable demand from PMSE users on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. These measures will ensure that PMSE users can continue to access spectrum while moving towards a more market-based approach over time."