Written evidence submitted by the British
Entertainment Industry Radio Group |
for PMSE services is continuing to grow, whilst PMSE access to
spectrum is being further eroded.
to sufficient quality and quantity of spectrum is vital to the
continuing operation of the PMSE sector.
eviction from the 800MHz has caused significant disruption to
sell-offs of the 600MHz or 700MHz bands would lead to market failure
in the PMSE sector.
PMSE sector delivers financial, cultural and social benefits to
UK citizens and consumers; it is essential that these benefits
are balanced against the potential financial windfalls of selling-off
BEIRG is an independent, not-for-profit association
that works for the benefit of all those who produce, show, distribute
and ultimately consume content made using radio spectrum in the
UK. As such it advocates the interests of the Programme Making
and Special Events (PMSE) sector in the UK.
The PMSE sector is responsible for both content production
and content delivery for live and recorded entertainment. It plays
a critical role in the ongoing success of the British entertainment
and creative industries. It consists of a wide and diverse community,
both professional and amateur, including broadcasters, theatres,
freelance engineers, rental companies, schools, houses of worship,
and organisers of events large and small; all of which use spectrum
to relay sound and/or picture data across relatively short distances.
This allows, for example, wireless microphones to be used on stage
in musical theatre, and at events such as Live 8 and the Olympics.
These wireless technologies are used extensively in the production
of entertainment content, adding significant value to production.
As an Independent Report commissioned by Ofcom notes, there are
productions that are simply "not possible without using wireless
The entertainment industry contributes at least £15
billion annually to the UK economy. This is a growing industry
with an ever increasing importance for the UK economy and cultural
reputation. For example, in 2009 (the last figures available)
revenues and attendance at London theatres reached their highest
ever. Gross box office revenue was over £500 million, with
over 14 million attendances at shows.
This submission addresses how the Government is proposing
to increase the radio spectrum available for next generation mobile
(wireless) broadband and the impact of these proposals on the
PMSE sector. BEIRG believes the benefits that PMSE brings to consumers
and the economy must be considered of equal value to the financial
gains which may be made by auctioning the spectrum. This submission
also addresses the future demand for spectrum by broadband providers,
and the dangers posed to PMSE by white space devices, which are
seen by some as a means to increasing mobile internet access.
Ofcom has decided to clear the entire 800 MHz band
(UHF channels 61-69) of television signals and PMSE services so
that it can be released via auction for new services, such as
mobile broadband. The Government supports this decision. Whilst
some spectrum capacity in lower UHF channels has been maintained
for PMSE use post-Digital Switchover (DSO), the clearance of PMSE
services from their previous nationally available dedicated channel,
channel 69, has caused a great deal of disruption to the industry.
The 800MHz band auction will also reduce the level of interleaved
spectrum available for PMSE use. PMSE users have become increasingly
concerned about whether there will be sufficient spectrum available
to them postDSO.
As a disparate and diffuse community, the PMSE industry
is unable to compete financially at auction against multinational
telecoms companies for access to spectrum. However, the social
and cultural benefits of this industry are immeasurable. As the
Committee has recognised, in the Terms of Reference for this inquiry,
it is essential to strike a balance between raising funds for
the Treasury and ensuring that the best outcome is delivered for
citizens and consumers.
Not only is quantity of spectrum vital to ensuring
the continuance of the PMSE industry, the spectrum must also be
free from interference. White space devices pose a real problem
for the PMSE industry. These devices seek to make use of interleaved
spectrum, which PMSE relies on for its continued operation. The
PMSE sector is extremely concerned that there are moves to introduce
these devices into the spectrum currently used by licensed PMSE
users, before any "real life" testing has taken place
and before Ofcom is in a position to guarantee that existing licensed
users will not be negatively affected.
White space devices are an unproven technology. If
they are permitted into the UK market in line with current proposals
they will, in all likelihood, cause interference to licensed PMSE
applications and consequently undermine the UK's ability to produce
quality content because they will render radio microphones, in-ear
monitor systems and talkback effectively unusable. This will devastate
the live music, theatre and film and TV production industries,
This submission addresses the following points in
the Terms of Reference:
Whether the upcoming auction
can provide value for money for tax payers and how that should
be balanced with benefits for consumers; and
The possible impact on
alternative users of spectrum.
THE 800 MHZ
1. The PMSE sector currently operates in the
interleaved spectrum in channels 61-68 on a secondary basis, and
in channel 69 as the primary user. Channel 69 has acted as a dedicated
channel for PMSE use UK-wide. The vast majority of radio microphones
and in-ear monitor applications in the UK operate in these bands.
PMSE is currently being cleared from these bands.
2. In December 2006, Ofcom consulted on a deregulated
channel 69 retained for PMSE use. BEIRG opposed deregulation:
without official licencing of frequencies, PMSE users would have
no statutory protection from interference. Ofcom announced, in
December 2007, that channel 69 would not be deregulated; instead
it would continue to be licenced and awarded to a band manager
with responsibilities to the PMSE industry.
3. Then in February 2009, Ofcom announced a change
in policy and that channel 69 would be cleared for auction. As
a disparate and diffuse community, the PMSE industry is unable
to compete financially at auction against multinational telecoms
companies for access to spectrum. Recognising the importance of
the industry, but also the constraints it faces in competing with
telecoms companies, Ofcom decided on the policy of a band manager
with responsibilities to PMSE. These constraints still exist for
4. Channel 69 has been an essential component
of PMSE use of spectrum, being the only channel available UK-wide.
Ofcom estimates that 95% of PMSE equipment tunes to channel 69.
The clearance of channel 69 has resulted in significant costs
and disruption to PMSE users. PMSE users were originally expected
by Ofcom to fund their forced move.
5. BEIRG led the "Save Our Sound" campaign
aimed at securing funding for the move, and limited funding has
since been secured for certain PMSE users. However this move has
still put a significant financial and administrative burden on
owners of wireless equipment:
Only 55% of the cost of
replacement equipment is being funded;
Only those who held a channel
69 licence between February 2008 and February 2009 are eligible
to claim funding; and
There is a heavy burden
of proof of ownership, despite some equipment having been purchased
many years ago.
6. Channel 38 will be the new dedicated PMSE
channel. This is still not available UK-wide, due to radio-astronomy
activities in Jodrell Bank (Cheshire) and Cambridge. As a consequence
of the requirement to protect radio astronomy from interference,
channel 38 is currently unusable for PMSE in large areas of the
North East, the Midlands and East Anglia.
7. Clearance of the 800MHz band has caused significant
financial and operational disruption to the PMSE industry. Despite
being a compliant and conscientious user of spectrum over many
years, the PMSE industry's ability to continue operating is being
8. Ofcom's recent publication "Future
access to interleaved spectrum for programme making and special
has considered whether, post-DSO, there will be sufficient level
of spectrum available for PMSE to meet its requirements. BEIRG
is extremely concerned about the availability of good quality
interleaved spectrum available to PMSE. BEIRG is currently undertaking
a full analysis of the deficiencies of future spectrum availability.
In the course of this, it is necessary to consult other stakeholders
and industry experts. As a result, this analysis will not be completed
before 7 June. BEIRG will provide a copy of this analysis to the
Committee upon completion.
9. It is essential that PMSE has access to
a sufficient quantity of spectrum in order to ensure that all
sizes of events can operate at locations throughout the UK. It
is also essential that the quality of this spectrum is protected
by ensuring that in all instances it is free from interference.
10. BEIRG believes any future users of the 800MHz
spectrum must be prevented from interfering with existing licensed
users in the adjacent bands. Ofcom must make every effort to ensure
that new use of the 800MHz band is as clean as possible, as soon
as possible. Given the disruption already faced by the PMSE sector,
any further disruption would be unacceptable and unsustainable.
11. Ofcom must ensure that any new services in
channel 69 do not interfere with the 863865 MHz band ("channel
70"). Applications that operate in the 863865 MHz
band include hearing aids, wireless headphones, and touring guide
systems all of which must be protected from damaging out-of-band
12. Following PMSE's eviction from channel 69,
many users have been advised by Ofcom,
and the PMSE band manager JFMG
that channel 70 is available to them as an alternative to channel
69. Indeed, many ex-channel 69 users have equipment which is still
able to operate within channel 70. Ofcom must protect those users
who are now migrating to channel 70. If no protection is available,
it is essential that Ofcom makes every effort to warn users that
channel 70 will become unusable once new services come online.
Until they have undertaken testing to ensure that channel 70 will
not suffer interference from adjacent users, Ofcom and its agents
must not continue to advise users to move to channel 70.
13. BEIRG believes that in the case that new
service operators do cause interference to adjacent users; this
must be considered a suitable condition for their licence to be
revoked. Existing PMSE spectrum users must be protected from interference
caused by new technologies within the 800 MHz band.
UHF BANDS IV AND
14. Without access to spectrum PMSE professionals
would not be able to produce the quality of show required for
live events such as the Olympics, festivals, West End shows or
Saturday night live entertainment. These events contribute to
the £15 billion annual contribution which the entertainment
industry makes to the British economy. Not only would this revenue
be lost, but the negative cultural and social impact would be
great. Britain would no longer be able to produce the content
which is exported worldwide, and would be put at a significant
disadvantage when competing for international events.
15. Ofcom is currently consulting on long term
future access to UHF Bands IV and V.
Having already faced severe disruption, the PMSE industry is now
totally reliant on access to clean spectrum in UHF Bands IV and
V. Any future move to reallocate this spectrum away from PMSE
and broadcast use would likely lead to market failure. A return
to wired microphones would mean a reduction in production qualities,
and a significant scaling down of live events.
16. As with the 800MHz auctions, those likely
to acquire spectrum released from UHF Bands IV and V would have
significantly greater financial leverage than the disparate and
diffuse PMSE sector. If a decision is made to sell-off further
UHF spectrum, then Ofcom must continue to acknowledge the inability
of the PMSE sector to compete at auction. The PMSE sector neither
possesses the required financial resources, nor is there a mechanism
to coordinate bidding for the collective needs of this community.
Were spectrum in the 700MHz band to be auctioned, new dedicated
PMSE channels must be awarded to the band manager with specific
responsibilities to PMSE.
17. Modern live events are continually increasing
in size, and consequently the size of their production is increasing,
meaning that PMSE demand for spectrum is strong and growing. Any
consideration of the long-term future of UHF spectrum must take
into account the increasing access that PMSE requires to spectrum,
which is driven by high consumer demand from PMSE professionals
18. Developments in technology in the late 1970's
had a massive impact on the type of shows which could be staged
by theatres. A range of new tools in set construction, automated
scenic control, greater sophistication in lighting and its control
and the development, understanding and use of High Fidelity live
sound along with radio mics of better quality and reliability,
added hugely to artistic freedom and helped creative teams to
present the highest quality live performances. These developments
lead to the creation of the "mega musical".
19. Shows such as Les
Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Lion King, Miss Saigon
Mia today could not be staged without
the use of these now important tools. The West End relies on shows
of this sort for its continuing economic success. Musicals regularly
occupy almost half of the mainstream theatres in the West End.
20. In London the rise of the mega musical started
at a time when the annual audience attendance figure for all types
of theatre was estimated at eight million. With the rise in popularity
of the mega musical attendance figures rose to 10.2 million in
1986 on to 12 million by 2004 and currently stand at 14.1 million.
As their popularity increases, so does the demand for access to
spectrum. Without access to sufficient levels of interference
free spectrum these shows, and the economic and cultural benefits
which they produce, would be lost.
21. At the same time as demand is greatly increasing,
PMSE access to spectrum is continually decreasing. As more channels
have been cleared of broadcast services, the maximum amount of
channels available for PMSE use is declining. This trend is illustrated
by the following graph:
22. Alongside the decline in available interleaved
spectrum for PMSE, there has also been a fragmentation of available
spectrum across the UK for PMSE users. This manifests two distinct
problems: there are a number of areas in the UK which have severely
reduced quantity of spectrum available; and that across the UK
PMSE spectrum access is becoming increasingly fragmented, presenting
logistical and financial barriers to touring productions.
23. From the information provided by the updated
JFMG look-up tool,
indoor venues such as Sunderland, Edinburgh and Richmond will
be clearly restricted in the amount of spectrum available. The
same scenario is likely to apply to the outdoor usage as this
is much more restricted by DTT protection issues. An initial view
of the quantity and continuity of available spectrum for some
of a sample of 17 larger arena/outdoor venues suggests that locations
such as Chelmsford, the Isle of Wight and Glasgow will have great
difficulty staging large scale concert productions.
24. The fragmentation of spectrum also has the
potential to cause severe damage to the industry. Lack of continuity
of spectrum access means touring production companies require
duplicate sets of equipment to tune to different channels in different
geographic areas. For many companies this will likely prove economically
unviable and will force them to cease operating. Ofcom must recognise
that the reduction and fragmentation of available interleaved
spectrum could greatly reduce the capacity of the PMSE industry
to continue to produce world class content across the UK.
25. Until the fate of UHF Bands IV and V have
been decided, there must be no further moves towards selling off
the lower cleared band (600MHz). In the event that the 700 MHz
band is earmarked for auction, and PMSE is cleared from this band,
PMSE must be granted access to the 600MHz band. Without this access,
the PMSE industry would be without access to spectrum, which is
essential to its ability to produce world-class content.
1. White space devices (WSD) pose a risk to the
interference free access to spectrum which is essential to the
PMSE sector. WSD are proposed to act as a new communications technology
that could be used for mobile internet access without a requirement
for a wireless telegraphy licence. Ofcom currently expects that
WSD will use the same interleaved frequencies as PMSE. BEIRG,
and many other respondents to Ofcom's consultations on WSD,
are extremely concerned about the level of harmful interference
which these devices could cause existing licensed users.
2. Any interference with PMSE will disrupt content
production at its live source. As a consequence, the value and
benefits this content generates will be significantly reduced
or lost at the beginning of the value chain. Any interference,
irrespective of its transience, is harmful to PMSE, particularly
for live professional performances. No audio distortions or disruptions
are acceptable to contemporary audiences.
3. BEIRG has severe reservations that any form
of white space device will be able to operate in the same spectrum
as PMSE without causing harmful interference. To date no "real
life" testing of WSD has been undertaken. BEIRG continues
to lobby Ofcom to undertake "real life" testing. BEIRG
would gladly participate, or facilitate participation by other
members of the PMSE community, in such testing to ensure that
the most rigorous protection parameters were developed.
4. For example, in "Implementing Geolocation",
Ofcom proposed that "we will immediately deal with the problem
by removing the relevant frequencies and areas from the database
which we will require database providers to reflect within one
For many PMSE users such as theatres, live TV broadcasts, live
music and large political and industrial events, this proposed
hour turnaround would be disastrous. For any of these events,
an hour can encompass the entire event.
5. Even if action could be taken more quickly
to prevent interference, it can only be corrected after the event,
under Ofcom's present implementation model. It is essential for
the PMSE industry that interference is prevented in the first
place, rather than simply addressed after the event.
6. If Ofcom allows WSD access to interleaved
spectrum, it must ensure that PMSE and television broadcast and
the consequent benefits they bring to UK citizens and consumers,
are not damaged by setting weak interference prevention standards
and allowing inexpensive devices to enter the band that will not
only interfere existing licenced services, but also with each
1. BEIRG urges the Committee to recommend that
Government halts any auctioning of the 600MHz spectrum band until
the future of UHF Bands IV and V is determined.
2. BEIRG further requests that that the Committee
works with colleagues both at home and abroad to push for a harmonised
decision on UHF Bands IV and V throughout the European Union.
The Committee has accepted that there must be some
balancing between the potential for financial gain through these
auctions, with the enriching of the lives of UK citizens and consumers.
The PMSE sector provides vast cultural and social benefits to
citizens and consumers in the UK, whilst also comprising a vital
component of the £15 billion a year British entertainment
The PMSE sector has suffered a great deal of disruption
as a result of the clearing of the 800MHz band. For this sector
to be able to continue operating, it is essential that PMSE has
access to sufficient quantity and quality of spectrum in the long
term. Having already suffered significant upheaval, security of
spectrum access is now required to ensure confidence in the industry,
and its continued contribution to the financial and cultural success
of the UK.
section 7.1 Back
Society of London Theatre Annual Attendance and Revenue figures
(last available) Back
Including Vodafone, BBC and JFMG. http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/consultations/geolocation/?showResponses=true